Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has begun a two-day official visit to Bulgaria with talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the country's former king. Mr Spidla is in Bulgaria to boost trade and bilateral relations. A government spokesman said the Czech Republic saw Bulgaria as a stabilising factor in the Balkans, and supported the country's bid to join NATO and the European Union. Mr Spidla is being accompanied by Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban and Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas, as well as a large delegation of Czech businessmen. Meanwhile President Vaclav Klaus has ended his three-day state visit to neighbouring Hungary.
Former President Vaclav Havel is being tipped as one of the favourites to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Mr Havel, nominated for the eighth time, is among three leading candidates for the prize along with Pope John Paul II and the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Most observers believe the ailing Pope will win; however some believe the pontiff's views on abortion and the use of condoms against AIDS make him too controversial. There are a record 165 nominees this year: the winner will be announced at 9:00 GMT on Friday.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic has risen to its highest level in seven months, reflecting the slow rate of growth in the nation's economy. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said the registered jobless rate rose to 10.1 percent in September from 10.0 percent in August and was up from 9.4 percent in September 2002. This was the highest level since February 2003, when the registered jobless rate stood at 10.2 percent.
Franz Ulrich Kinsky, a descendant of the Kinsky noble family, has lost two further court cases involving property confiscated after the Second World War. A court in the northern town of Decin rejected Mr Kinsky's claim that he was the rightful owner of a hunting lodge and a restaurant. Franz Kinsky has filed a total of 157 lawsuits against the Czech state, asking the courts to declare him the legal owner of property including country homes and woodland. Most of the property was confiscated after 1945 from Mr Kinsky's late father, an alleged Nazi sympathiser who died before the war. However Mr Kinsky says the property belonged to him, not his father, and the confiscation was therefore illegal.
The Chamber of Deputies has been holding a special session to discuss the planned constitution for the European Union, days after an inter-governmental conference on the document began in Rome. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Tuesday that his cabinet would put forward a bill allowing for a referendum on the proposed constitution. Meanwhile, MP Jan Zahradil of the opposition Civic Democrats, which called the debate, said the EU was already functioning well without a constitution. The Czech Republic and nine other countries are to become members of the EU next May.
The Czech Republic is to assist Iraq in establishing its interior ministry and fire brigade. The Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who has just ended a working visit to Baghdad, said the Iraqi authorities had requested this assistance from Prague since the Czech Republic had experience in undergoing a transformation from a totalitarian regime to a democracy. Czech experts will thus not only be involved in the process of training policemen and investigators but will advise Iraq on structural changes at the ministry. Members of the Czech military police are already training future Iraqi policemen in Basra.
Opponents of the Temelin nuclear power plant have taken their case to court on the grounds of fresh evidence relating to safety. The plant's opponents claim they have evidence to prove that a certain construction firm failed to finish its work on a system of pipelines following a problem with payment. They are striving to get the plant closed down on a court order. The plant's management claims that the job was later finished by a different firm and the pipelines were properly tested.
Eleven Iraqi children are recovering from surgery in Czech hospitals. The Motol hospital spokeswoman Eva Jurinova said there had so far been no complications and the project of helping Iraqi children with serious inborn defects was going according to plan. The children, many of whom have serious heart defects, were diagnosed by doctors at the Czech field hospital in Basra, southern Iraq. They had no hope of getting adequate medical care in their own country. A group of four more children are expected in Prague shortly.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has voiced his belief that EU members and candidates will soon be able to finalise the text of the EU constitution. Speeking at Saturday's meeting of representatives of the 15 European Union member states and the ten accession countries in Rome, Mr Spidla cited several points in which the Czech Republic will demand changes to the proposed constitution, as drafted by the European Union Convention. The Czech government expects the inter-governmental conference, which started on Saturday, to provide space for raising especially those issues relating to the balance of European Union institutions, equality of EU members and cohesion of the EU. The Czech Republic wants every country to appoint one full-fledged commissioner even after 2009. Mr Spidla demanded that the rotation of countries at the head of the Council of Ministers be clarified. He spoke in favour of a team rotation chairmanship.
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