The interior ministers of five EU candidate countries and Austria meeting at the "Salzburg Forum 2003" agreed on Saturday on concerted strategy in pushing for their interests after EU enlargement. The interior ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia agreed on the need for cooperation in the sphere of security. In a joint statement the ministers agreed on the importance of a harmonised European asylum and migration system, an integrated administration of external borders as well coordinated struggle against terrorism and organised crime.
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed a proposed increase in value added tax. The tax increase would see VAT on some products and services rise from 5 percent to 22 percent and is intended to bring an extra 11 billion crowns into the state coffers. A spokesman for Mr Klaus said on Friday that the president was unhappy the Senate had not ruled on the proposed changes. The bill now returns to the Chamber of Deputies for further debate.
President Vaclav Klaus and his Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil, who arrived on a one-day visit to the Czech Republic on Thursday, have discussed Czech-Austrian relations and cooperation within the EU. The two presidents also touched upon controversial questions of Czech-Austrian relations. However, according to President Klaus they did not mention the so-called Benes decrees in their conversation and Mr Klaus himself is not preparing any specific gestures, demanded by some Austrian politicians in connection with the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the deportation of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. President Klestil said that Austrian leaders were pleased at the progress in the so-called Melk process, which was designed to assure expert security for the Temelin nuclear power plant. The power station is located close to the Czech-Austrian border and has been the cause of many protests in the nuclear-free Austria.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has begun a two-day visit in France. He met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac in Paris on Tuesday, expressing confidence the visit would allow for serious discussion on the future role of the Czech Republic in the European Union. Shortly preceding his visit, however, Mr Klaus gave a somewhat stormy interview to the French daily Le Figaro, expressing scepticism towards the current "Federalist" direction of European integration. In the interview Mr Klaus called the European constitution - put forward in draft form last month by the Convention on the Future of the EU - "unnecessary". He also repeated a statement made last month when Czechs voted on EU accession, that there was real danger that the Czech Republic would dissolve in the European Union. In his words: "like a lump of sugar in a cup of coffee".
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has thanked Constitutional Court judges for their work at a farewell ceremony at Prague Castle on Monday. On July 15, eight of the fifteen judges at the court retire after a ten year term. While President Klaus has already nominated suitable candidates to the constitutional court, their appointment is yet to be approved by the Senate, which is expected to meet on Wednesday.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has held talks in Jerusalem with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and other senior Israeli officials. Mr Svoboda said on Sunday the two countries had longstanding good relations. The foreign minister did not meet representatives of the Palestinian Authority; he is planning to visit the territory in August.
The foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has reopened the Czech embassy in
Baghdad. Mr Svoboda also held talks with the American civil administrator
of Iraq, Paul Bremer, who praised the Czech government for the part it is
playing in the reconstruction of the country. Mr Svoboda was also due to
visit Basra on Saturday and to meet members of a Czech military field
hospital based in the city. On Sunday the foreign minister is moving on to
Israel, where he will meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other senior
Meanwhile the Czech Catholic Charity Association has sent a tonne and a half of medicines to Iraq. The medicines, mainly antibiotics and vitamins for children, were flown to Basra on Friday night in a Defence Ministry plane.
More than a dozen people were injured when a local passenger train collided with a truck at Rokytnice in the Orlicke Mountains, east Bohemia on Saturday. The truck driver was flown to hospital in Hradec Kralove with serious head injuries. The train was derailed in the accident, which occurred at an unmarked crossing between two towns in the mountains.
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