The government has approved a bill on elections to the European Parliament. The bill sets down the rules for election of Czech representatives to the European Parliament, and if approved by the Czech parliament, will take effect on the day the Czech Republic joins the European Union. Czech MEPs will have a five-year mandate, one year longer than the mandate of members of the Czech lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. EU enlargement is expected at the beginning of 2004, and elections to the European Parliament will be held in the same year.
Meanwhile in New York itself, the former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan opened the U.N. General Assembly by calling on the international community to continue the fight against terrorism. Mr Kavan, who was elected President of the General Assembly earlier this year, told delegates the international coalition against terrorism must be upheld. The assembly is due to hold a commemorative service on Wednesday for those who died. Mr Kavan will preside over the General Assembly's 57th annual session until next September.
Analysts say foreign currency revenues from tourism fell by over 10 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2002, mainly due to the strong crown. They said the strong crown was responsible for 95 percent of the fall, while the floods in August could be responsible for a 7 - 8 percent fall in the number of hotel bookings by the end of the year.
Politicians, church leaders and members of the public have held a minute's silence for the victims of last year's attacks on New York and Washington, as the world marks the first anniversary of September 11. Czech politicians, church leaders, traders on the stock exchange and many others stood in silence to remember the dead. People also gathered at the statue of St Wenceslas on Wenceslas Square, in a silent show of respect.
The Czech Republic has repeated its commitment to host the NATO summit in November, in the wake of the devastating floods that hit the country in August and amid fears of a possible terrorist attack. The Czech carmaker Skoda has promised free armoured luxury cars to VIPs, and President Havel announced he was arranging a Prague Castle dinner for international military chiefs. The NATO summit is expected to draw up to 12,000 participants, including senior military officers, defence ministers and up to 46 heads of state from around the world.
The British Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg who's on a visit to the Czech Republic has described Czech Roma applying for political asylum in Great Britain as economic migrants. After a meeting with his Czech counterpart Petr Pithart, Lord Irvine said he was sure ethnic Romanies faced no persecution in the country and their human rights were not threatened. He added that the immigration controls at Prague's Airport were justified, denying they were discriminatory. The presence of British immigration officers 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.
The Czech Republic's former foreign minister Jan Kavan, who is assuming his one-year presidency of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York, has said the UN should play an active role in resolving the situation concerning Iraq which is facing a threat of a US attack. Mr Kavan told journalists on Monday that he preferred a political and diplomatic solution to war and bloodshed and as President of the General Assembly, he had to seek a broader consensus between states. The 57th session of the General Assembly takes place against the backdrop of the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks and US threats to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. The heads of state and government who will address the assembly over the next two weeks are expected to devote considerable time to the war against terrorism, but any UN authorisation for action against Iraq would have to come from the UN Security Council, which is meeting on Wednesday, September 11th.
Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas, who's accompanying Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on a visit to Denmark, has said the Czech government should guarantee Czech farmers their situation will not worsen after the country joins the European Union. Mr Palas has been trying to negotiate better terms for Czech farmers with EU agriculture ministers. He has described the talks as tough but he has also said the Czech Republic won't give up efforts to negotiate the best possible terms within the EU.
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.
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