Meanwhile, there are indications that the proposed EU constitution - put on something of a hold on Thursday - would not be approved by the majority of Czechs if a referendum were held in the Czech Republic today. That news comes according to a poll freshly released by the STEM agency suggesting that on 42 percent of voters would decide in favour, while 58 percent would decide against. According to pollsters the number of those in favour has dropped following "No" votes in France and the Netherlands cast the future of the treaty in doubt. Previously, around 60 percent of Czechs supported the treaty.
Leaders in negotiations at the European Union summit in Brussels have remained deadlocked at talks over the EU's long-term budget. At stake is the union's budget framework for the years 2007 - 2013. Outstanding issues that have come to the forefront include the future of the United Kingdom's budget rebate measured against farm subsidies. Diplomats have been saying that the prospect of a deal looks uncertain. Leaders have yet to decide whether it is worth continuing talks on Friday; some - like Sweden's prime minister - have recommended it would be better if a final decision on the budget were put off until 2006.
Czech striker Milan Baros has decided to stay on at his club FC Liverpool, fresh champions of this year's Champions League. French club Lyon had offered 15 million euros for the player, who was the most successful forward at Euro 2004. But, the player's agent said Baros preferred stay on in the English league. Baros is not expected to have it easy: last season his relationship with Spanish head coach Rafael Benitez was strained, and the coach has already indicated a preference for two strikers up front, most likely Morientes and Cisse.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, also in Brussels, has also
reacted, saying that a failure to reach a deal on Friday could have a
negative impact on new EU member states.
"If there is no deal today it could be difficult for the new member states. But, still, I believe that we are 'sitting at the same table'. I believe we have to reach a consensus on the financial proposal. And, if the proposal is against the new member states, then well we will say 'No'."
The foreign minister said that the Visegrad countries, of which the Czech Republic is a part, were more or less sticking together on a number of issues:
"There are some slight, differences, definitely: from the macro-economic point of view agriculture is currently not as important, but politically yes, politically definitely. Generally speaking we stick together."
Czech property owners have filed more than 1,500 complaints with the
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over regulated rent in the
Czech Republic. The deputy chairman of the Association for Property
Owners, Milan Krcek, said the full number - 1,607 - was not yet final.
House owners estimate that losses related to regulation are worth 40
billion crowns, the equivalent of 1.6 billion dollars US, since 2002.
House owners say that funds from regulated rent are not sufficient to
cover maintenance costs. They are asking for an immediate rise and
pushing for rent to reflect real-market value by 2010.
Rent-regulation concerns some 750,000 apartments in the Czech Republic, about 20 percent of homes. About 300,000 are privately-owned.
In terms of Czech reaction Radio Prague spoke with Czech Prime Minister
Jiri Paroubek: the Czech delegation in Brussels has been pushing for an
agreement and the prime minister has said difficulties were hardly
unexpected in such important talks.
"I'll say it with an example from history: [even] the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, after 1870, had budget talks every 10 years and it was always a 'crisis'. It's a normal thing: when we talk about the budget it's not easy."
Telefonica's acquisition of the majority stake in the Czech Republic's biggest fixed line operator, Cesky Telecom, is final. The Spanish telecommunications company won the privatisation tender with the highest bid - 82.6 billion crowns (a little over 3.5 billion US dollars). On Wednesday, it paid the National Property Fund a remaining 90 percent of the purchase price and is now the owner of the state's 51.1 percent stake in Cesky Telecom, which also owns the country's leading mobile operator Eurotel.
The Senate has approved a law allowing the issuing of more than 72 billion crowns, (the equivalent of over 3 billion U.S. dollars), in bonds to help cover this year's state budget deficit. Bonds are likely to be issued on both domestic and foreign markets, while the remainder of the deficit, some 11 billion crowns, is to be covered by long-term loans from the European Investment Bank. The law has yet to be signed by the president to come into effect.
European Union leaders are attending a summit on Thursday and Friday in
Brussels to discuss the fate of the EU constitution and try to reach an
agreement on the Union's contested budget for 2007-2013. Before the
meeting, Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, for whom this is the first
official visit to Brussels as prime minister, met with NATO Secretary
General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and European Commission President Jose
Manuel Barroso to reassure them of the continuity of the Czech Republic's
position in NATO and the EU.
Mr Paroubek also appealed that the ratification process of the European Union constitution continue but that the period be extended beyond 2006 to give the countries more time for reflection. With regards to the European budget, the Czech prime minister says he aims to achieve the best terms for the Czech Republic.
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