21-12-2003

In this week's Mailbox: the movement of people/labour after the Czech Republic's accession to the EU, public transport and the Prague Transit Authority. We answer questions from Merryl Jones, Frederick Hunt.

Let's begin with a question many listeners have been asking us. This one's from Merryl Jones - a US citizen with Czech roots who listens to us on a short-wave radio in Belgium:

"I am currently stationed in Brussels, the seat of the EU headquarters, and would like to know whether my children, who can both apply for Czech citizenship, would be able to work in the EU countries when the Czech Republic joins next year. I have asked around but have not been getting a clear answer. What exactly are the requirements?"

Well, Ms Jones, you are not the only one who has not been given a clear answer. But according to the official websites of the EU and the Czech Foreign Ministry, as regards the free movement of workers, a transitional arrangement has been agreed. This means that for the first two years following the accession of the new Member States, access to the labour markets of the present Member States will depend on the national law and policy of those States, as well as the bilateral agreements they may have with the new Member States. Some Member States have indicated that they intend to fully open their labour markets to workers from all the new Member States. These are Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark. Other present Member States intend to allow more restrictive access, which will differ depending on the new Member State in question. With regards to the Czech Republic, the two main countries are its neighbours Germany and Austria. In practical terms, this means that you are likely to need a work permit during the period the present Member States apply national measures. Other countries that are expected to introduce restrictions are Spain, Portugal, and Greece.

Now, the longest possible time that present member states can ask for restrictions is seven years. In principle, five years after the accession, the transitional arrangements should end. There is, however, a possibility for a present Member State to ask the Commission for authorisation to continue to apply national measures for a further two years but only if it experiences serious disturbances on its labour market (or the threat thereof). The transitional arrangements cannot extend beyond an absolute maximum of seven years.

Moving on to another question that many listeners who have been to Prague ask us. Frederick Hunt is from New Zealand and visited the city last month. He sent us a letter asking:

"Could you tell us more about your public transportation system? I was fascinated by its excellent co-ordination and would like to know how many people use it and what organization it is operated by. And I would also like to wish Radio Prague and all of its listeners a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, or just happy holidays and a very pleasant start to the New Year."

On behalf of the Radio Prague team, thank you very much. And to answer your question, the public transport network is operated by the Prague Public Transit Authority. It controls the metros, trams and buses that are part of the network. It was established in 1991 but, of course, continues from the one-hundred-year-old history of the state-owned operator that controlled it before. Now, there are three metro lines, thirty-two tram lines, and 205 bus lines running in the city. The number of passengers using the metro every year amounts to over 400 million. Those using the trams and buses total around 350 million each. There are about 580 metro cars in the fleet, over 950 trams, and about 1340 buses.

And that's about all we have time for. Just a quick reminder that we'll be broadcasting special programmes on December 24th, 25th, and 26th. Tune in to Radio Prague on Monday and Tuesday for more information. Don't forget that you have only a few days left to answer this month's listeners' competition question: "what building near the Old Town Square in Prague is connected with cubism." The building was featured in one of our broadcasts recently. You have until the end of the month to send your answers to the Radio Prague English Section, 120 99 Prague 2, the Czech Republic or to english@radio.cz.

21-12-2003