The lower house of parliament, on Tuesday, decided to discuss a government proposal to send a Czech field hospital to Iraq next week on April 17. The cabinet hopes to deploy the hospital in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1472, which calls on the international community to provide the Iraqi population with immediate humanitarian aid. The Czech senate also plans to discuss the issue on April 17. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has written a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to seek his opinion. The Defence Ministry has said the 7th field hospital was ready for deployment and could leave for the Middle East as early as April 18.
Should the current law on public tenders stay in effect when the Czech Republic joins the European Union, the country will not get a single cent from the EU to be used in Czech projects. Speaking to journalists in Prague on Tuesday, the head of the EC delegation's investment section, Ruud van Enk warned that the EU would stand behind foreign investors and stated that current Czech law makes it difficult for foreign companies to take part in public tenders. According a spokesman for the Ministry for Regional Development, a proposal to a new law has already been made and will most probably be passed by parliament to come into effect on January 1 2004.
A Czech military field hospital could leave for a temporary stay at a base in Kuwait on April 18, Deputy Defence Minister Jan Vana said on Monday. His statement came a day after MP Jan Kavan said Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla would consult the United Nations about the sending of the hospital to Iraq before submitting a proposal on the matter to parliament. The only party opposed to the deployment of the hospital is the Communists.
Tests on the controversial Temelin nuclear power station have been successfully completed, the state power company CEZ said on Monday. The announcement sets the stage for final licensing by government regulators and means the south Bohemian plant could be in full operation within weeks. Meanwhile anti-nuclear activists in Austria say they will continue their fight against Temelin, which they say is unsafe.
The situation in Iraq and European Union issues are expected to dominate talks on Thursday between Czech President Vaclav Klaus and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a German government spokesman said on Monday. It will be Mr Klaus's first visit to neighbouring Germany since he was appointed president just over a month ago. He will also meet his German counterpart Johannes Rau during the one-day visit.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and four other ministers from his Social Democratic Party should resign over an affair involving a motorway in north Moravia, the opposition Civic Democrats said on Monday. Mr Spidla and the four ministers were in the previous cabinet, led by Milos Zeman, which approved the awarding of the contract to build the D 47 motorway to an Israeli company without a public tender. Last week the government decided to abrogate the contract and to have the motorway built by the state. The police are currently investigating the awarding of the contract.
Prague's Bulovka Hospital has discharged the last of 17 patients admitted on suspicion of having contracted Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. All 17 tests proved negative. The last to leave the hospital's infection unit on Monday was a six year old girl who fell ill after a holiday in Thailand. Although no case of the deadly form of pneumonia has been confirmed in the Czech Republic strict preventive measures remain in force at all of the country's airports and the Foreign Ministry has advised Czechs not to travel to Southeast Asia.
Hundreds of anti-war activists gathered on Prague's Palach Square on Sunday to protest against the military campaign in Iraq. Organised by the International Peace Movement and the Initiative Against War organisation, the event resembled a happening rather than a demonstration. Despite the cold weather and occasional snow, participants created banners, ate, drank, and symbolically drowned a puppet representing Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who has been publicly supporting the war in Iraq, by letting it float on the Vltava river. Since December, some twenty demonstrations against the war in Iraq have been organised in towns and cities around the country.
Statistics suggest that Czech exports to the European Union, which make up seventy percent of the country's total, have increased significantly in the past few months. In January, a 4.5 % increase was recorded year on year to reach 145 billion Czech crowns, or some 5 billion US dollars. While exports have increased to Italy and Austria, they have decreased to Great Britain and the Netherlands. However, according to economist David Marek, there is not cause for optimism, as exports are expected to remain stagnant.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is planning to send a letter to the United Nations to seek it's opinion on the deployment of a Czech field hospital to Iraq. Speaking in a TV discussion programme, former Foreign Minister and UN General Assembly Chairman Jan Kavan said Mr Spidla intends to get a UN standpoint on the issue before it is discussed in parliament. He added that he had been assured the Czech Republic would try to find a way of sending the hospital to the Middle East solely as part of a humanitarian aid programme and not in the Iraqi Freedom operation. Although it is yet unclear when the future of the Czech field hospital will be discussed in parliament, Prime Minister Spidla said on Saturday, that he was certain most lower house deputies would vote in favour of its deployment.
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