A member of the European Parliament and representative of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Daniela Raschhof said on Monday that the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, had "gone down on his knees" before Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Mrs Raschhof's remark came in response to Mr Verheugen's refusal to make the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia, an EU problem. Mrs Raschhof added that Mr Verheugen should have waited for the European Parliament to present its view on the Benes decrees before assuring Prime Minister Zeman that the decrees would not influence EU enlargement. The failure to do so proved Mr Verheugen's 'ignorance', Mrs Raschhof said.
A public opinion poll conducted by the GfK Prague agency at the end of February and beginning of March showed that a little under two-thirds of Czech citizens intend to cast their votes at the general elections in June. Estimates from experts in the field, however, are more positive, expecting up to 75% of the population to vote. This would bring figures closer to those recorded in 1998, when 74% of Czech citizens voted at the parliamentary elections.
Britain has rejected opening the issue of the post-war Benes decrees in connection with the expansion of the European Union. Germany, Austria and Hungary have been calling for the abolition of the Benes decrees which sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia after World War II and allowed for confiscation of their property. Certain groups in Germany and Austria have been trying to make the Czech Republic's accession to the EU conditional on revocation of the decrees. British ambassador to the Slovakia, Roderic Todd, said on Saturday that Britain saw no reason for the Benes decrees to play a role in European enlargement.
A fresh Czech contingent has been deployed in Kosovo, near Pristina. The Czech soldiers replaced British troops in the region. They now control a major road between the Kosovo administrative centre Pristina and the South-Serbian town of Nis with as well as a strategic border crossing. The Czech troops are responsible for border checks of people, vehicles and cargo. Altogether, there are 300 Czech troops in Kosovo who form a joint unit with 100 Slovak troops.
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