British immigration officials are back at Prague's Ruzyne Airport for another round of controls aimed at preventing economic migrants from entering Great Britain. Their presence at Prague's main international airport is part of a bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and Great Britain, who both want to avoid the re-introduction of a visa regime. The arrangement was concluded in the wake of a mass exodus of Czech Romanies to Great Britain, many of whom have since been extradited from the country. Last Friday the British authorities put 20 Romany families on a flight back to Prague after refusing them asylum. Three of them were wanted by the Czech police and were arrested at Prague Airport. Human rights activists have criticized the arrangement and the Romanies who have undergone the immigration screening process claim that it is "racist". During the last round of immigration screenings, which ended two weeks ago, British immigration officials turned back 78 people.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who is on a working visit to Denmark has asked the country, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, for fair treatment. During talks with his Danish counterpart , Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen, Mr. Spidla said that the enormous flood damage which his country sustained would not delay it on the road to EU accession but that unfair treatment might. "We will strive for early accession, but not at any price" the Czech Prime Minister told Danish members of Parliament. As accession talks progress, the Czech coalition government is under growing pressure from the opposition to defend Czech national interests, especially in the sphere of agriculture. The government likewise fears that if Czechs are not convinced they will be treated "on equal terms" with other EU member states, the Czech referendum on EU membership could produce a negative result.
Czech Army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy is attending a meeting of the Military Committee of NATO in Berlin on Monday and Tuesday, to discuss preparations for the Alliance's summit in Prague in November. The Military Committee session continues in Prague on Wednesday and Thursday. The Prague summit is the first NATO summit to be held behind the Iron Curtain. It is to be attended by representatives of 19 member states and 27 countries participating in the Partnership for Peace programme. Issues the summit is expected to deal with include relationships with Russia and further expansion eastward.
The Czech government is discussing a tax reform to raise money to finance repairs of damage caused by recent heavy floods. The government met on Sunday night to finalise a tax reform proposal to be discussed by Parliament later this week. The government hopes to get an extra 10 billion crowns annually by increasing the consumer tax and VAT, and by introducing a special tax rate for high-income groups.
The tax reform proposed by the Czech cabinet to raise money to finance repairs of flood damage will face opposition in Parliament. The main opposition Civic Democrats said they would not support the government-proposed package of so-called flood taxes, claiming that the floods is only an excuse for a tax reform and that there are other ways to finance repairs of flood damage, such as revenues from privatisation. The Lower House is to vote on the proposal next Thursday. The tax reform proposal which the government will finalise on Sunday, should bring an extra 10 billion crowns to the state budget next year. The government wants to increase the consumer tax and VAT, as well as to introduce a special tax on personal income exceeding 900,000 crowns annually. The other opposition party, the Communist party, is not satisfied with
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.
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 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.
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