Attending a NATO Parliament conference in Prague, NATO Secretary General George Robertson said that the EU's emerging defense force and NATO will be "two sides of the same coin" with "no inconsistency". One example, he said was a Czech bio-chemical warfare detection battalion which had been requested last week by NATO and the United States and which would also be able to accept EU defense assignments. Many units would be complementary since the EU and NATO would not necessarily need them at the same time, Mr. Robertson said, addressing the question of how EU states could finance two defense structures.
The President of the UN General Assembly Jan Kavan has rejected calls for him to resign in connection with a scandal concerning classified documents at the Czech foreign ministry. Classified documents which were believed to have been shredded under the former foreign minister Jan Kavan have unexpectedly come to light. During his ministerial term Mr. Kavan reportedly signed orders for some 400 documents classified top secret to be shredded. Two thirds of them have unexpectedly come to light. The materials in question allegedly include NATO documents. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told the CTK press agency it was not clear whether the act was intentional or simply a matter of gross negligence, but he said that in any case the incident had damaged the country's reputation. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has reportedly asked the National Security Office to look into the matter.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Prague has said the U.N. should play an important role in the reconstruction of Iraq. Members of the Assembly, representing the 19 NATO countries, said a new U.N. Security Council resolution would help stabilise the country. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, and last year hosted the first ever NATO summit to be held in the former Soviet bloc.
A senior member of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, has said that Slovak Romanies are not welcome in the Czech Republic. Mr Necas, speaking on a TV discussion programme, said Slovakia was a democratic country and there was no reason for Slovak Roma to seek asylum in the Czech Republic. Around 500 Slovak families - mostly believed to be Romanies - have applied for asylum in the Czech Republic this year, citing poor living conditions and discrimination back home.
Members of the NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council have begun meeting in Prague. The meeting is part of the spring session of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, which represents the Alliance's 19 members. NATO members are in Prague for talks expected to be dominated by the recent conflict in Iraq. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, and last year hosted the first ever NATO summit to be held in the former Soviet bloc.
The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, and his Slovak counterpart,
Mikulas Dzurinda, have agreed to co-ordinate efforts to deal with the
increasing number of Slovak Romanies applying for asylum in the Czech
Republic. Speaking after talks in Prague on Friday, the two leaders said
ministries in both countries would set up joint working groups to deal
with the issue. Slovaks currently make up the largest group of asylum
seekers in the Czech Republic.
The Czech and Slovak prime ministers also said co-operation between the Visegrad Four, which also includes Poland and Hungary, would continue once all four join the European Union. Mr Dzurinda visited Prague less than a week after Slovaks voted to join the union; the Czech Republic is to hold a referendum on the matter in the middle of June.
Some 78 percent of Czechs are likely to vote Yes to joining the EU, according to a poll by the TNS-Factum agency released on Friday. Turnout is expected to exceed 50 percent. Another poll by the STEM agency suggests the biggest worry voters have over EU accession is that prices will rise, with 27 percent expressing that concern. On the positive side, 47 percent of Czechs believe joining the EU will improve the workings of the country's legal system. If the referendum is passed, the country will join the union in May next year.
Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban said on Thursday that the Czech Republic might expand its Temelin nuclear power plant even though its has yet to bring the station's first two reactors fully online after years of breakdowns and problems. The owner of Temelin and the country's main power producer, the state-controlled company CEZ, is to make a decision on new power sources next year. On Thursday the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban as saying the expansion of nuclear power is one option to replace at least 60 percent of the four-gigawatt capacity at obsolete coal-burning power plants over the next fifteen years. The south Bohemian nuclear plant has raised many protests in neighbouring Austria because of its combination of Soviet design and Western control systems. The Czechs government says the plant is safe.
A proposed bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and the Vatican was rejected by Parliament on Wednesday. The agreement, which was to have established the relationship between the State and the Church, was rejected by 110 out of 177 deputies present in the Lower House. The Communists, Civic Democrats and some Social Democrats who raised their hands against it said that in its present form the agreement would have given the Catholic Church a privileged position in the Czech Republic. Because Parliament cannot amend international agreements, work on the treaty will have to begin all over again. The Christian Democrats in the Lower House expressed bitter disappointment over the outcome of the vote, saying that two years of hard work had been lost.
The former President Vaclav Havel is to be awarded the country's highest state distinctions : the Order of the White Lion and the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. The proposal for the former Czech president to receive these distinctions was approved by both houses of Parliament. It is not yet clear when the award giving ceremony will take place. Vaclav Havel spent thirteen years in office, the first three of which he served as president of Czechoslovakia.
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