Insurance companies operating in the Czech Republic have increased flood damage estimates to 30.7 billion crowns. The number of claims has been reduced from 132,000 to 104,000, as registered by the Czech Insurers' Association. The overall damage caused by the floods across the Czech Republic is estimated at 90-100 billion crowns. Insurance companies expect to cover up to 1/3 of the damage. So far, insurers have paid their flood-stricken clients around 2 billion crowns, mostly in advance payments.
The Czech Republic has still to pass thirty European laws and a law on referendum, Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky said on Friday. The Czech Republic is the only of the ten EU candidate countries not to have a referendum law despite the fact that the fifteen European Union members are likely to decide on the Union's enlargement at the Copenhagen summit in December and the accession treaty might be ready by January next year. Mr Rychetsky said the devastating floods had halted the normal activities of the government. The referendum bill has already been passed by the lower house and has yet to be approved by the Senate. Mr Rychetsky said, however, that differences in opinion between the two parliamentary houses were complicating the matter. The Senate is planning to submit its own bill on a one-off EU accession referendum.
Prague Zoo, severely damaged by the recent floods, is going to reopen to visitors on Saturday morning. People will be able to see parts of the zoo which remained untouched by water, as well as a small part of the flooded area which has been restored. The zoo is going to display photographs of the recent events and install boxes around the site where visitors can donate money towards the recovery of the zoo. Approximately 400 animals had to be relocated to other zoos around the Czech Republic after the flood which had caused the death of close to a hundred animals, mostly birds.
Czech President Vacav Havel has met with Austrian counter-part Thomas Klestil in the south Moravian town of Znojmo to discuss ways of solving continuing disputes in Czech-Austrian relations, disputes which include the Czech operation of the controversial nuclear power plant Temelin and the historic Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. The two leaders released a statement Thursday saying historic reflection would be the basis for constructive dialogue and that it was now up to political elite to face up to the task. The statement, however, did not offer any concrete steps. The two presidents also discussed the importance of continued regional co-operation, as exemplified after last month's catastrophic floods.
The European Parliament has passed a majority of resolutions allowing the European Union to release 1 billion euros in post-flood aid to countries Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The parliament asked the European Commission to set-up a European Fund that would be used to help repair the devastation from floods that hit Central Europe in August. Thursday's resolution states that the billion euros needed would be released immediately, and would be taken from left-over funds from the 2002 European Union budget. The resolution also welcomed plans by European investment banks to provide cheap loans to help companies afflicted by the floods as well as to help repair damaged infrastructures.
The threat of dangerous infections including hepatitis A, salmonella, and dysentery is expected to continue for 2-3 months in areas in the Czech Republic that were hit by last month's floods. Michael Vit, the chief health inspector of the Czech Republic told journalists on Thursday that it was therefore essential for citizens in those areas to take proper steps to safeguard their health. The chief health inspector said that all children between the ages of three and five in the flood-hit areas would receive vaccines against hepatitis A. Vit added that three weeks after the floods fears of possible epidemics in the Czech Republic remained unfounded. So far, five patients have been infected with light cases of bacterial infection in south Bohemia; while two cases of suspected hepatitis A have not yet been confirmed.
The Czech Prime Minister, Vladimir Spidla, and his Polish counterpart, Leszek Miller, have said referendums in both countries on accession to the European Union should be coordinated. The two men were speaking in Warsaw on Wednesday, on what was Mr Spidla's first official trip abroad since winning elections in June. They stressed that no concrete dates for such referendums had been agreed on. At a recent meeting of the presidents of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary the idea of 'cascading referendums' was put forward; meaning that votes on joining the EU should be first held in countries where support for such a move is higher, starting with Hungary. Of the four country's, support for EU accession is lowest in the Czech Republic, with around half the electorate in favour.
The Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, has thanked the people of Slovakia for the help they gave the Czech Republic during the recent floods, saying Slovakia was one of the first countries to offer assistance. Mr Svoboda was speaking after talks in Bratislava on Wednesday with senior Slovak politicians, including President Rudolf Schuster and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. Czechoslovakia split in two in January 1993.
A message from the Czech President, Vaclav Havel, was read out at the closing ceremony at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in the South African city of Johannesburg on Wednesday. Mr Havel's message stressed global responsibility and called for a restructuralisation of values as well as the restructuralisation of the economy. It was read out by Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares, the head of the Czech delegation at the summit.
The director of Prague Zoo, Petr Fejk, has said he hopes to reopen the upper part of the zoo to the public this coming weekend. Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Fejk said the lower part of the zoo, which was completely underwater during the recent floods, would be opened in stages, but not before next year. Around a dozen large mammals and 80 exotic birds were lost during the floods.
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