The Czech and Dutch ministers for EU affairs Alexander Vondra and Frans Timmermans said following their meeting in Prague on Monday that they had very close standpoints regarding the future of the European Union. They believe that the European Union does not need a constitution in the proper sense of the word, merely a package of agreements aimed at reforming the union's economy and making it a strong global player. The Dutch minister noted that such concepts as "constitutional symbols" had confused the Dutch public and resulted in their rejecting the treaty in a referendum. The Dutch sent a warning signal that there are some boundaries that must not be crossed, minister Vondra told newsmen.
There is growing public opposition to the deployment of a US radar base
on Czech territory. According to the latest survey conducted by the
CVVM agency 68 percent of Czechs say they are opposed to the idea,
which is 7 percent more than in February of this year. Seventy-seven
percent of respondents said they would welcome a referendum on the
The United States has intensified its efforts to convince the Czech Republic and Poland to agree to the stationing of a US missile defence system in the two countries. On a one day working visit to Prague on Monday the head of the US missile defence agency, General Henry Obering, underlined the crucial role of the Czech Republic and Poland in Washington's defence plans against a possible missile attack by Iran. And it has been announced that US President George Bush is to visit the Czech Republic in June to discuss the matter with top officials. The Czech Republic has officially opened talks on the issue but has made no commitment as yet. Talks are expected to last until the end of the year. The government's decision would then have to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
Sixty-four percent of Czechs, including half of all smokers, would welcome separate non-smoking rooms in restaurants, according to a poll published in Lidove Noviny. Only twenty percent of respondents said it was unnecessary. The lower house of Parliament is to begin discussing a proposed amendment to the smoking law this week, which would further restrict smoking in public areas. The proposal envisages a smoking ban at children's playgrounds and stipulates that restaurants would have to have separate rooms for smokers. At present the owner can simply put up a smokers notice in one part of the restaurant without screening it off in any way. The Czech Republic remains one of the most liberal countries for smokers in Europe and observers say that efforts to push through a stricter legislation are likely to meet with strong opposition in Parliament.
Austria has reacted with anger to the Czech prime minister's plans to
end the validity of the Melk agreement on the Temelin nuclear power
plant. During his visit to neighbouring Austria on Monday Czech Prime
Minister Mirek Topolanek said that the conditions of the Melk agreement
- relating to the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south
Bohemia - had been met and at its session on Wednesday the Czech
government would officially end the validity of the agreement. The
bilateral agreement signed in Melk in 2000 relates to safety norms at
the plant and sets a framework for regular meetings between Czech and
Austrian nuclear safety experts. According to the Czech prime minister
all outstanding issues have now been resolved and the Melk agreement
should be replaced by a standard bilateral agreement on a mutual
exchange of information on nuclear safety.
Austrian anti-nuclear activists have threatened to step up border blockades and politicians have warned that the one-sided move would have "negative consequences for bilateral relations". Austrian Environment Minister Josef Proll has written a protest note to the Czech Foreign Ministry demanding an explanation.
The Czech military base in Basra, southern Iraq, was hit in a missile attack on Monday. No one was injured in the incident. Rebels fired fifteen missiles at the allied multinational compound one of which hit the Czech base, damaging three vehicles and a container. The Czech Republic has a 90-member contingent in Basra including ten female troops. It is primarily involved in the defense and protection of the allied base. Czech soldiers permanently guard the main entrance to the local checkpoint.
A twenty two year old hit and run driver has been sentenced to three years in jail and banned from driving for a period of seven years. The court also ordered him to pay half a million crowns in compensation to the parents of a 14 year old girl who died as a result of the crash. The driver left for Britain several hours after the crash but later returned of his own accord when the police issued an Interpol arrest warrant. His defense attorney has appealed the verdict.
Czech police officers are to undergo training in the use of firearms in crisis situations, according to Tuesday's edition of the economics daily Hospodarske Noviny. Petr Hantak, spokesman for the police presidium said that officers needed to have clear rules about when and how to use their firearm in order to make sound on-the-spot decisions in a crisis. Several incidents in the past few weeks have shown that some officers are inclined to be too hasty in using their guns. A policeman accidentally injured a pedestrian in Prague last week when shooting at a speeding car and in Ostrava a young girl sitting in the passenger seat of a car was seriously injured by a stray bullet which was meant to stop the driver.
The opposition Social Democratic Party has said it would call an international conference on the possible impact of the US missile defense system on European security. Party leader Jiri Paroubek said on Tuesday the party would invite social democrats from Germany, Austria and Slovakia to take part. The party leadership has also requested detailed reports from three of its MPs who recently inspected the US radar station on the Marshall Islands. Their impressions are said to have been wholly positive, though this has not changed the party's official stand. The Social Democrats have said they would accept the US radar base on two conditions - if it were part of NATO's defense system and if it were approved in a public referendum.
The head of Hyundai Motor, Chung Mong-Koo, is to launch construction of the South Korean car giant's first European production plant in the Czech Republic on Wednesday. The company is investing 1.0 billion euros (1.36 billion dollars) in the plant at Nosovice, Moravia, the biggest ever single investment in the Czech Republic. The South Korean newcomer will produce 200,000 cars from 2009, rising to 300,000 when it reaches full production in 2011. Hyundai will produce its new i30 family hatchback at Nosovice, signalling its intent to grab a bigger share of the mainstream European car market. The Czech plant will later produce an MPV car-van hybrid, the company said.
Radovan Krejcir, a fugitive billionaire wanted by the Czech police, has been detained in South Africa. Mr Krejcir, who is wanted for extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder, managed to escape from the Czech Republic during a police raid of his villa in 2005. He moved to the Seychelles, where the authorities refused to extradite him because he had bought Seychelles citizenship. Travelling under a false identity, Mr Krejcir was detained at Johannesburg airport on Saturday. His arrest is the result of a joint effort involving several countries, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said on Monday. The Czech authorities are now in discussion with South Africa and will send an official request for Mr Krejcir's extradition this week.
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