The prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia voiced their opposition on Thursday to any possible delay in the proposed enlargement of the borderless Schengen area to include the 10 new European Union member states. At a joint news conference, the prime ministers responded to suggestions from Brussels that the extension of the Schengen zone could be delayed until 2008. The Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico said the Czech Republic and Slovakia were "technically ready" to join the zone next spring. Currently, the former 15 nations of the EU, with the exception of Britain and Ireland, but with the addition of Norway and Iceland make up the Schengen Zone.
The Prague City Hall has decided to invest another 500 million crowns in the construction of a new stretch of the C metro line in the north of Prague. The extension of the Prague metro is one of the city's priorities. The new stretch is going to be 4.6 km long, with three stations. The overall costs are estimated at 15.5 billion crowns. Construction started in 2004 and the new stations should be in operation in 2008.
The new Health Minister Tomas Julinek of the Civic Democrats has said he wants to introduce extra fees for above-standard health care, while the standard treatment, which must be specified first, will be fully covered by insurance. His deputy Pavel Hrobon said that the ministry also plans to introduce individual accounts for patients. Mr Julinek on Thursday presented the ministry's plans for another five years. However, it is not certain whether he would succeed in fulfilling his long-term vision as the Civic Democrat minority cabinet has yet to win confidence in the lower house where the left and right forces are equally balanced.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said that the adoption of the single European currency in the Czech Republic in the year 2010 in unrealistic. After meeting his Slovak counterpart, Rober Fico, in Bratislava on Thursday, Mr Topolanek said his party, the Civic Democrats, expressed their reservations about the term even before the June election, when it was proposed by the previous government. Economists say the Czech Republic might be ready to join the eurozone between 2012-2013. An opinion poll, carried out this week by the Median agency, suggests that almost four out of ten Czechs are opposed to the adoption of the euro.
Czech rabbi Tomas Kucera was among the three rabbis ordained in Germany on Thursday in the first such ceremony in the country since the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust six decades ago. The three, a German, a Czech and a South African, were ordained in the new synagogue in Dresden as 25 Jewish leaders from all over the world watched. The newly ordained rabbis said they planned to serve congregations in Munich in southern Germany, in Oldenburg in the northwest of the country and in Cape Town in South Africa.
The Czech foreign minister, Alexandr Vondra, on Wednesday also criticised the postponement of the enlargement of the Schengen area by at least a year. Speaking after talks with his German counterpart in Berlin, Mr Vondra told reporters the Czech Republic did not like the delay and was requesting an explanation. The European Union has said it cannot open its borders to the new EU 10 until 2008 - a year later than originally planned - because of technical reasons; Mr Vondra described that justification as weak and unsatisfactory.
The government of Mirek Topolanek has recommended to the lower house to pass a Senate-proposed bill that would simplify the path to early elections. The proposed constitutional amendment is supposed to enable the President to dissolve the lower house of parliament after the cabinet has resigned and the lower house has approved its dissolution. The Civic Democrat minority government wants to lead the country to early elections next year in order to solve the political stalemate produced by the June general elections. The Constitution now offers four methods to reach early elections but all of them require lengthy procedures.
The head of the Czech counter-intelligence (BIS) Jiri Lang has been charged by the government to coordinate the fight against terrorism in the Czech Republic. The BIS counter-intelligence service is now going to collect the information obtained by intelligence services and the police. The new government of Mirek Topolanek intends to better coordinate the activities of intelligence services and the police in the fight against international terrorism and intends to carry out a thorough reorganisation of the services.
The European Commission expressed regret on Wednesday for a postponement in the opening of its internal borders to new member states, saying it will seek to minimise the delay. The EU had originally planned to allow the ten states which joined the bloc two years ago into its border-free "Schengen" area in October 2007. But technical and legal problems in building a new central police database look set to delay the expansion of the borderless area for at least a year, which prompted harsh criticism from the newcomers led by the Czech Republic. A spokesman said the European Commission is aware of the frustration of the citizens of new member states. He responded to a statement from the Czech Foreign Ministry, which said the delay meant Czech citizens could not take full advantage of free movement, one of the EU's fundamental freedoms.
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