The Czech Republic is now entering the final stage of its accession talks with the European Union, the chief Czech negotiator with the EU, Pavel Telicka, said on Friday. Mr Telicka said that the main outstanding areas to be discussed were support for agriculture in new member countries and budgetary and financial resolutions. The general elections which take place in the Czech Republic next weekend will not have any bearing on the country's plans to join the EU, said Mr Telicka. The Czech Republic is hoping to join the union in 2004.
With just a week to go before general elections are held here in the Czech Republic, a poll suggests that 61 percent of Czechs are not satisfied with the state of politics in the country. The findings of the poll, which was conducted at the end of May by the CVVM polling agency, are similar to those recorded the previous month. The latest polls of party support suggest that the governing Social Democrats are slightly ahead of the right of centre Civic Democrats.
The leader of the governing Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, has said that he is in favour of a referendum on the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. Mr Spidla said on Friday that he could not imagine how such an important issue as joining the EU could be decided without a referendum, adding that he still had a "bad taste" in his mouth over the fact that Czechoslovakia was divided in 1993 without a referendum being held.
An email defaming the leader of the opposition Freedom Union, Hana Marvanova, was evidently sent from a computer at Czech Radio, a spokesman for the station said on Friday. The email, which was sent on May 29, is entitled The Two Faces of Hana M and describes Miss Marvanova as unscrupulous and cynical. Czech Radio has asked the police to investigate the case.
A second opinion poll to be released this week has claimed that the ruling Social Democrats are slightly ahead of the opposition Civic Democrats as general elections in the Czech Republic approach. The survey, conducted by the state-funded Centre for Public Opinion Research (CVVM), put the ruling Social Democrats on almost 22 percent of the vote, and the Civic Democrats in second with just under 20 percent. The results echo a poll released on Wednesday by the Sofres-Factum agency. The narrow gap between the two leading parties suggests that neither will win an outright majority, meaning that the next government could be formed by a coalition.
The European Union's Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, has said he is sure the Czech Republic will remain on track to join the EU, even if former prime minister Vaclav Klaus returns to power. Mr Verheugen said no possible government in the Czech Republic would turn the country against European integration. Mr Klaus is accused by some of being Euro-sceptic. He denies the charges, describing himself as a Euro-realist. Public opinion polls have shown his right-of-centre Civic Democrats, whose election campaign has often had nationalist undertones, running neck and neck with the ruling Social Democrats.
A toll-free hotline for questions about what Czechs can expect from the European Union has received its 100,000th query since the phones started ringing in October, the Czech government said on Monday. The milestone was reached on Friday at 3 p.m. when accountant Petra Dvorakova telephoned with questions about the practical changes she can expect at work after the Czech Republic joins the E.U., probably in 2004. The phone line, operated on weekdays by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gets about 1,000 calls a day. Most questions concern the advantages and disadvantages of EU membership Recent polls have found a majority of Czechs favour EU membership, although EU scepticism among conservative voters is expected to play a role in next week's parliamentary elections.
Hundreds of Romanies from the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been applying for asylum in Sweden. In May, 74 Czech and 206 Slovak Roma asked for political asylum in the country, which is the same number as in the whole of 2001. None of the Czech and Slovak applicants were granted political asylum in Sweden either this or last year. Since January 111 Czech and 421 Slovak Roma have applied for asylum in Sweden. The majority of the Czech applicants are said to come from the north Moravian region of Ostrava. Swedish authorities say they think the attempts at mass-immigration from former Eastern Bloc countries are well organised.
The leader of the governing Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, said his party would not be prepared to form a coalition with the Communist Party or the Civic Democrats after the upcoming general elections. Speaking on a television debate programme with the leader of the Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, Mr Spidla said he would consider forming a minority government if necessary. With the elections due to take place on June 14 and 15, opinion polls are putting the Social Democrats a few points behind the Civic Democrats.
The Austrian governing-coalition Freedom Party and opposition Social Democrats have criticised statements made by the head of the Czech Nuclear Safety Office, Dana Drabova. Mrs Drabova said in a newspaper interview that when the second reactor at the Czech Temelin nuclear power station goes into test operation, faults could be discovered and the reactor could be quickly shut down. A series of faults have seen the first reactor at the plant shut down on numerous occasions since the launch of the plant began in October 2000. Many in neighbouring Austria and Germany are opposed to Temelin, which they say is unsafe.