The European Commission has earmarked 24 million euros / 720 million Czech crowns/ for flood-relief projects in the Czech Republic. Half of the money is to be used for repairing damage to the country's infra-structure, the rest will be used for environment-related projects. The August floods devastated large parts of the Czech Republic, damaging nine out of thirteen regions. The overall damage estimate is close to 80 billion Czech crowns. Industrial dryers are still working around the clock and town halls are using available finances for the construction of new homes before the onset of winter.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who on Saturday ended a three day official visit to France, has received assurances that France fully supports Czech membership in the European Union. The French Premier Jean Pierre Raffarin said during talks with Mr. Spidla, that the two countries had traditionally good relations and that even if the final stage of EU negotiations proved tough the Czech Republic could count on French support. The CTK press agency notes that according to opinion polls the French public is the least enthusiastic about EU expansion and the French government is preparing to address the issue in a broad information campaign later this year. The Czech Prime Minister's three day official visit to France focussed on bilateral ties, EU expansion and the upcoming NATO summit in Prague.
The Prague police is questioning a dozen British football rowdies in connection with a pub brawl on the eve of the European Championship qualifying match between England and Slovakia. Some 40 British football rowdies got into a brawl at the Atlas pub in Prague close to midnight on Friday , just hours before they were supposed to board a train for the Slovak capital Bratislava, where the match takes place. They demolished much of the pub's furnishings causing an estimated 100,000 crowns damage. There were no serious injuries. Another 300 British football fans boarded the morning train for Bratislava without incident. The situation was far more serious in the Slovak capital where two British fans were shot and wounded in the early hours of Saturday.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and the Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer have agreed to set up a joint team of experts which would debate controversial issues relating to the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia and nuclear energy in general. Since coming to office the Czech Foreign Minister has made concerted efforts to diffuse tension over the Temelin controversy and to de-politicize the issue. The Austrian Environment Minister has expressed appreciation of these efforts, saying that it was important to debate the issue of nuclear energy on broader scale from the point of view of a sustainable energy policy for the whole continent.
The Civic Democratic Party has nominated the party's outgoing chairman Vaclav Klaus for the post of President. The party also expressed support for direct presidential elections, saying that it was undignified for parties to haggle over who should be the next head of state. Mr. Klaus announced earlier this week that he would not run for re-election as party leader but would accept a nomination for the presidential elections. Mr. Klaus' chances of winning the elections are meager since none of the parties of the governing coalition, which has a slim majority in Parliament, are likely to support him. The Civic Democrats believe that in a direct vote Vaclav Klaus' chances of success would be much higher.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will not take part in the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, the country will be represented by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Both the former Czech Foreign Minster Jan Kavan and the country's President Vaclav Havel have invited President Putin to the summit. A decision should be made at the summit over whether seven post-communist states, including the three Baltic will be accepted in the Alliance, a scenario which has been opposed by Moscow.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda visited Ireland on Thursday, in the hope of gaining support for EU enlargement. Mr Svoboda met with Irish President Mary McAleese, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and other Irish supporters of the Nice treaty, which is considered a foundation for the enlargement process. Irish voters are currently preparing for a referendum on the treaty, to take place on October 19th. Last year, the people of Ireland rejected it by 54 percent to 46. At the time, however, just one in three Irish citizens bothered to vote. Opinion polls show that the majority of Irish people are in favour of enlargement.
A court in London, on Thursday, rejected a lawsuit filed by members of the Czech Roma community against British immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne airport. After having been prevented by British customs officials from boarding a plane heading for Britain at Ruzyne airport despite carrying valid travel documents and air tickets, the group of Roma filed the lawsuit against the British authorities in the hope of receiving a court ruling that would find the airport checks discriminatory and therefore illegal. The London-based Liberty human rights organisation, which represented the Roma plaintiffs in court, said it would appeal against the ruling.
The Czech Republic is coping well with preparations for the NATO summit that is to be held in Prague late in November, NATO officials said on Thursday. Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Alexandr Vondra - the Czech government commissioner for the preparation of the summit - the officials praised the country's efforts to restore Prague after devastating floods hit the city and much of the country in August, adding that preparations for the summit were on a very good level. According to Mr Vondra, a solution has been found to the accommodation crisis that followed the floods when water had damaged the Liechtenstein palace that was to house NATO Secretary General George Robertson and his entourage as well as the Four Seasons hotel, in which other summit participants were to stay. The only major problem will be the large number of closed-off roads and metro stations that will not be functional by November 21st when the summit begins.
The British deputy interior minister Beverley Hughes has revealed that new measures by British customs officials, aimed at reducing the chance of abuse of the asylum system, will reduce the likeliness of Great Britain reinstating mandatory visas for Czechs travelling to Britain. Mrs Hughes added that random checks of travellers at Prague's Ruzyne airport would continue. Mandatory visas have been applied by Great Britain to curb the flow of asylum seekers, many of them from the Roma community, in neighbouring Slovakia. However, it appears unlikely such measures would be taken in the case of the Czech Republic. British Interior Minister David Blunkett has recommended that ten EUcandidate countries, including the Czech Republic, be given 'safe' status, which would make it impossible for citizens from those countries to apply for political asylum.