The British Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg who's on a visit to the Czech Republic has described Czech Roma applying for political asylum in Great Britain as economic migrants. After a meeting with his Czech counterpart Petr Pithart, Lord Irvine said he was sure ethnic Romanies faced no persecution in the country and their human rights were not threatened. He added that the immigration controls at Prague's Airport were justified, denying they were discriminatory. The presence of British immigration officers at Prague's main international airport is part of a bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and Great Britain, who both want to avoid the re-introduction of a visa regime. The arrangement was concluded in the wake of a mass exodus of Czech Romanies to Great Britain, many of whom have since been extradited from the country.
The Czech Republic's former foreign minister Jan Kavan, who is assuming his one-year presidency of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York, has said the UN should play an active role in resolving the situation concerning Iraq which is facing a threat of a US attack. Mr Kavan told journalists on Monday that he preferred a political and diplomatic solution to war and bloodshed and as President of the General Assembly, he had to seek a broader consensus between states. The 57th session of the General Assembly takes place against the backdrop of the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks and US threats to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. The heads of state and government who will address the assembly over the next two weeks are expected to devote considerable time to the war against terrorism, but any UN authorisation for action against Iraq would have to come from the UN Security Council, which is meeting on Wednesday, September 11th.
Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas, who's accompanying Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on a visit to Denmark, has said the Czech government should guarantee Czech farmers their situation will not worsen after the country joins the European Union. Mr Palas has been trying to negotiate better terms for Czech farmers with EU agriculture ministers. He has described the talks as tough but he has also said the Czech Republic won't give up efforts to negotiate the best possible terms within the EU.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who is on a working visit to Denmark has asked the country, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, for fair treatment. During talks with his Danish counterpart , Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen, Mr. Spidla said that the enormous flood damage which his country sustained would not delay it on the road to EU accession but that unfair treatment might. "We will strive for early accession, but not at any price" the Czech Prime Minister told Danish members of Parliament. As accession talks progress, the Czech coalition government is under growing pressure from the opposition to defend Czech national interests, especially in the sphere of agriculture. The government likewise fears that if Czechs are not convinced they will be treated "on equal terms" with other EU member states, the Czech referendum on EU membership could produce a negative result.
British immigration officials are back at Prague's Ruzyne Airport for another round of controls aimed at preventing economic migrants from entering Great Britain. Their presence at Prague's main international airport is part of a bilateral agreement between the Czech Republic and Great Britain, who both want to avoid the re-introduction of a visa regime. The arrangement was concluded in the wake of a mass exodus of Czech Romanies to Great Britain, many of whom have since been extradited from the country. Last Friday the British authorities put 20 Romany families on a flight back to Prague after refusing them asylum. Three of them were wanted by the Czech police and were arrested at Prague Airport. Human rights activists have criticized the arrangement and the Romanies who have undergone the immigration screening process claim that it is "racist". During the last round of immigration screenings, which ended two weeks ago, British immigration officials turned back 78 people.
Czech Army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy is attending a meeting of the Military Committee of NATO in Berlin on Monday and Tuesday, to discuss preparations for the Alliance's summit in Prague in November. The Military Committee session continues in Prague on Wednesday and Thursday. The Prague summit is the first NATO summit to be held behind the Iron Curtain. It is to be attended by representatives of 19 member states and 27 countries participating in the Partnership for Peace programme. Issues the summit is expected to deal with include relationships with Russia and further expansion eastward.
The Czech government is discussing a tax reform to raise money to finance repairs of damage caused by recent heavy floods. The government met on Sunday night to finalise a tax reform proposal to be discussed by Parliament later this week. The government hopes to get an extra 10 billion crowns annually by increasing the consumer tax and VAT, and by introducing a special tax rate for high-income groups.
The tax reform proposed by the Czech cabinet to raise money to finance repairs of flood damage will face opposition in Parliament. The main opposition Civic Democrats said they would not support the government-proposed package of so-called flood taxes, claiming that the floods is only an excuse for a tax reform and that there are other ways to finance repairs of flood damage, such as revenues from privatisation. The Lower House is to vote on the proposal next Thursday. The tax reform proposal which the government will finalise on Sunday, should bring an extra 10 billion crowns to the state budget next year. The government wants to increase the consumer tax and VAT, as well as to introduce a special tax on personal income exceeding 900,000 crowns annually. The other opposition party, the Communist party, is not satisfied with
Prague Zoo, severely damaged by the recent floods, is going to reopen to visitors on Saturday morning. People will be able to see parts of the zoo which remained untouched by water, as well as a small part of the flooded area which has been restored. The zoo is going to display photographs of the recent events and install boxes around the site where visitors can donate money towards the recovery of the zoo. Approximately 400 animals had to be relocated to other zoos around the Czech Republic after the flood which had caused the death of close to a hundred animals, mostly birds.
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