The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia,
or the so-called Visegrad countries, have agreed that the EU Constitution
ratification process should continue, even after French and Dutch voters
rejected it, the Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said on Friday at a
Visegrad Group summit in Poland, which has been dominated by EU
integration. Referring to next week's EU summit, the Czech Prime Minister
Jiri Paroubek said the Czech Republic was waiting for a signal from the
European Council, which would have an important effect on the ratification
process in the Czech Republic. The prime ministers also agreed they wanted
EU member states to agree on the European Union's budget for 2007-2013 at
next week's summit in Brussels. Radio Prague's Martina Lustigova reports
from the Visegrad summit.
"The prime ministers talked also about the growth of the budget of the Visegrad Fund. Currently, the budget is 3 million euros and in the future each country should pay 50,000 euros more. The Visegrad Fund should concentrate on new projects. Currently the fund supports mainly cultural activities, cooperation of schools, a number of festivals or translations of books. In the future, the Visegrad Fund should also help other countries, for example, last year the Visegrad Fund sent its observers to Ukraine for the elections."
The number of foreigners living in the Czech Republic has been rising markedly in recent years. Some 250,000 foreign nationals stayed legally in the country at the end of last year, including nearly 100,000 foreigners with a permanent residence permit, the Interior Ministry announced on Friday. According to the ministry's asylum and migration policy department the number of foreigners rose by almost 19,000 last year compared to 2003. According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Czech Republic has become a country with the steepest increase in the number of foreigners in the world between 1992 and 2002.
Tuesday June 14th will be tax freedom day in the Czech Republic, two days earlier than in 2004, the Liberal Institute think tank announced on Friday. According to Liberal Institute President, Jiri Schwarz, since 2000 tax freedom day has moved eight days forward, which means Czechs spend more time earning for the state. Some economists argue taxes in the Czech Republic are too high, making life difficult for businessmen and contributing to high unemployment.
The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda's return from an official trip to Montenegro was delayed by an hour due to a defect on his plane. The door of the Soviet-made Antonov-26 would not shut and a device controlling air-pressure onboard was out of order, Minister Svoboda told the CTK news agency. However both defects were quickly repaired. Mr Svoboda had arrived in Serbia and Montenegro on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Balkans, including the status of the Kosovo province.
The US Embassy in Prague has confirmed that a new location for the headquarters of the US-funded radio station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been found in Prague. In an interview for the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said the station's management had chosen a new location but it was up to them when they would make it public. Currently, the station is located in the centre of Prague. Relocation for security reasons has been planned since the events of September 11, 2001.
The Agriculture Minister Petr Zgarba is prepared to resign if police prove he broke the law by helping an East Bohemian village to get a state subsidy, Mr Zgarba told journalists on Thursday. The press recently wrote that Mr Zgarba had arranged a subsidy for the village of Lipa-Petrkov to modernise its infrastructure. Part of the money reportedly went for a sewerage system to lead to the property where Mr Zgarba's family plans to manage a spa. Originally, the subsidy was to be used for the reconstruction of old sewerage, pavements and the construction of a water treatment plant in the village. Mr Zgarba denies accusations he has misused the subsidy.
Jarmila Bohackova, a deputy for the ruling Social Democrats, has died after a long disease, aged 57, a spokeswoman for the party said. Mrs Bohackova should be replaced in the lower house by Frantisek Konicek, the current Deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister. The new MP is expected to take his oath at the next lower house session which begins on Tuesday. Mrs Bohackova was a Social Democrat member for many years and a deputy from 1998.
The Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Martin Jahn said that he expected Czech GDP growth this year to again exceed 4 percent on high exports in particular, adding that exports have grown also thanks to the country's accession to the EU last year. Mr Jahn also said that for economic growth to accelerate further, investments in education, research and development and transport infrastructure were necessary. The Czech GDP has grown faster than Poland's (2.1 percent) and Hungary's (2.9 percent), but slower than Slovakia's (5.1 percent).
The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection says it has reservations about the new bill which empowers police to obtain DNA samples without the agreement of the accused, even by force. The new bill, which the cabinet approved on Wednesday, is supposed to facilitate identification of crime perpetrators. The data protection office chairman Karel Neuwirt has expressed concern about the extent of this "extraordinary intervention in the individuals' privacy" and about the fact that the Interior Ministry had not discussed the bill with the office. Health Minister Milada Emmerova, too, said she feared that the register could be abused.
The Czech economy grew by 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2005, the growth slowing down from 4.6 percent in the last quarter of 2004, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday, adding that it had revised last year's GDP growth from 4 to 4.4 percent and the growth for 2003 from 3.7 to 3.2 percent. The GDP growth in the first three months of 2005 was pulled by foreign trade which showed a record surplus of 22.8 billion crowns, the Czech Statistical Office said.
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