Prime ministers of four Central European countries have urged European Union leaders to offer more generous financial terms to candidates, ahead of this week's crucial EU Summit in Copenhagen. In a joint article published in Britain's Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday, the leaders of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia called on their colleagues in the EU to ensure enlargement does not get off to a bad start due to a deepening rift over money. The EU is offering the 10 mostly ex-Communist countries around 40 billion euros when they enter the Union, expected in mid-2004. The amount is around two billion euros less than the financial package agreed by EU leaders in 1999. Several candidates, led by Poland, are campaigning hard for a better deal.
With less than two days to go until the start of the summit, EU member countries remain divided over how much money to offer the newcomers. The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has backed the candidates' demands, urging member states not to hold back the financial support originally set aside for enlargement. However Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, insists there is no more money available, and some countries, such as Germany, say the offer is too high already. Meanwhile Denmark has warned Poland it risks being left out of the EU altogether if it persists in trying to get a better deal on farm subsidies.
The international terrorist network Al Qaeda is reportedly planning strikes against Israeli targets in Prague. The Reuters news agency and Israeli daily newspaper Jediot Achronot reported that Israeli and Western intelligence services had information about planned attacks on Israeli tourists in the Czech capital. The reports appeared just a week after two attacks on Israeli tourists in Mombasa, Kenya. The Czech interior ministry said no special security measures have been adopted on top those implemented after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The trade unions in the health sector have threatened to go on strike to support their wage demands. Chairman of the medical trade unions, Jiri Schlanger said at the unions' congress at the weekend that they wanted wages in the health sector to grow appropriately before the country's accession to the EU. They also protest against further cuts in social spending and voiced strong dissatisfaction with wide-spread violations of the labour code in hospitals regarding working overtime.
The government is to discuss an updated national security and defence strategy at its session on Monday. The current defence and security strategy was adopted two years ago. However, since then, the country's security has improved due to its integration into Western political and defence structures, but at the same time it has to react to the changing situation especially as regards the growing threat of international terrorism. The new strategy also takes into consideration the conclusions of the recent NATO summit.
EU candidate countries that are members of the so-called Visegrad Four have agreed to stand united in the final negotiations with the EU at its summit to take place next week in Copenhagen. The summit will be decisive for EU expansion and the candidates still hope to achieve more favourable conditions regarding agricultural subsidies, transitional periods, and budgetary and financial issues. Representatives of the Visegrad Group countries, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, met on Friday and Saturday to overcome a tension caused by the Poles last week who said they would prefer cash payments from EU budget in the first three years after entry to direct support for farming.
The senior partner in the ruling coalition, the Social Democratic Party,
have nominated former justice minister Jaroslav Bures as their candidate
for the upcoming presidential election to replace outgoing president
Vaclav Havel. Party leaders met on Saturday to choose from three
candidates who emerged from an internal party referendum - Jaroslav Bures,
former party chairman and prime minister Milos Zeman, and the ombudsman
Otakar Motejl. Mr. Bures came second in the referendum, after Milos Zeman
who later said he would run for president only if the parliament fails to
elect the president and new election has to be held.
So far, three other political parties have nominated their presidential candidates. The main opposition Civic Democrats have nominated outgoing party chairman and former premier Vaclav Klaus, the Communist Party's candidate is a former communist military prosecutor Miroslav Krizenecky, and the junior coalition Christian Democrats propose Senate chairman Petr Pithart.
Austrian opponents of the Czech Temelin nuclear power station have
threatened to stage a "permanent" blockade of the Czech-Austrian border
crossing at Wullowitz/Dolni Dvoriste. The blockade is to start on
Wednesday, December 11. Their goal is to achieve a re-opening of the
energy chapter prior to the EU summit in Copenhagen. They say if they
fail to receive a permit for the permanent blockade of the border
crossing from the authorities, they intended to go on a hunger strike.
Temelin, situated in south Bohemia, some 60km from the Austrian border, was put on-line in October 2000. It has been sharply criticised by both politicians and anti-nuclear activists in Austria and Germany who claim that it is unsafe due to its combination of Soviet and Western technology.
The presidency of the European Union has warned candidate countries that they risk setting back their entry date by years if they try to demand better accession terms at next week's Copenhagen summit. The Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a meeting with the French President Jacques Chirak in Paris that the EU had made ultimate concessions in its last offer and candidates should not demand the impossible. Three of the candidates -Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary- are still pushing for a better deal in accession talks and the last minute concessions proposed by Denmark still have to be approved by the governments of the other 14 member states. The Danish Prime Minister expressed confidence that the Copenhagen summit would be a historic success, despite the fact that some of the candidates are not entirely happy with the entry terms and that some EU member states feel that the Danish presidency has been too generous with its final offer.
A civic initiative has launched a public petition in support of Otakar Motejl for President. Mr. Motejl, who is currently serving in the post of Ombudsman, was one of the proposed candidates of the Social Democratic Party but his chances dropped after he came in third in the party's referendum. Although the Czech president is not elected in a direct vote but by the two houses of Parliament a public opinion poll revealed that Mr. Motejl is the most popular candidate among Czechs. The Social Democrats are expected to officially name their candidate this weekend.