The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Saturday that the Czech Republic could join the single European currency, the euro, in 2009-2010, although no date had been set and the Czech Republic did not want to force the matter. Mr Spidla also said accession to the euro would be very complex, but he added that the country must not stay in isolation as the Czech currency was fragile and vulnerable, and if alone it would not be capable of standing speculators' attacks.
The Christian Democratic Party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, has nominated Senate Chairman Petr Pithart as their official candidate for the presidential office. The senior coalition partner, the Social Democrats have put forward former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures. The opposition Civic Democrats' candidate is their long-time leader Vaclav Klaus, and the Communists say they will support former communist-era military prosecutor Miroslav Krizenecky. The presidential election is expected to take place in February, after Vaclav Havel's last term of office ends. It is widely expected that no candidate will get enough support in the parliament to be elected in the first attempt.
In dramatic last minute talks, the Czech Republic negotiated an increase in compensation payment for 2004-2006, which means an additional 83 million euros from the EU for the government budget. During the same time the country will be allowed to transfer 100 million euros from EU structural funds. Moreover, it will be able to increase direct agricultural subsidies from the government budget to 55, 60 and 65 percent of the EU level in 2004-2006. The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told reporters that the Czech Republic had achieved good conditions at the summit.
Hours after the European Union leaders sealed a landmark enlargement deal on Friday, the Czech President Vaclav Havel warned the 10 new members to avoid an overemphasis on a materialistic interpretation of the historic agreement. He adopted a phrase made famous by John F. Kennedy, saying that each new member should calculate what they can do for the EU, rather than asking what the EU can do for them. Mr Havel was unable to attend the summit in Copenhagen because of heavy fog, which prevented his plane from taking off.
Leaders from the fifteen European Union states and ten mainly ex-communist candidates agreed on final entry terms late on Friday, ending years of negotiation and decades of division. The Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who steered the milestone summit to its successful conclusion despite last-minute snags and bickering over funding for future members, said that "one of the darkest and bloodiest chapters in European history" had been closed. The new members, expected to join the bloc in 2004, will be Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The new recruits will now have to quickly implement wide-ranging economic and institutional reforms to meet EU standards.
Prime Minister Spidla also said that he was satisfied with a bilateral declaration about the safety of the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, on which he had agreed with the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel on Friday night. The declaration will include a single sentence that the two countries will fulfil the obligations from the previous agreements, that is the conclusions of the "Melk process" and the subsequent process since November 2001. Austrians failed to push through any mention about the jurisdiction of the European Court or a reference to the Euratom treaty with which Prague disagreed. The declaration will be attached to the Accession Treaty. The Temelin nuclear plant which is situated in south Bohemia close to Austrian and German borders, is sharply criticised by Austria and Bavaria as well as environmentalists who say it is not safe because it combines Soviet design and western fuel and safety technology.
Prime Minster Vladimir Spidla has said the Czech Republic will hold out for as good a deal as possible on European Union accession, and will not bow down to a fast-approaching deadline. Mr Spidla made the comment on Friday at the EU summit in Copenhagen, at which the Czech Republic and nine other countries are being invited to join the union in 2004. While a final agreement between Prague and the EU is expected on Friday, when the summit is officially scheduled to end, Mr Spidla said it might not be made until Sunday. There has been some criticism in the Czech Republic of the fact the country is to receive the least amount of financial aid from the EU; while Poles for instance will receive 166 Euros per capita in the first three years of membership, the Czechs will get only 70.
Austria is reportedly trying to forge an agreement with the Czech Republic on the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda held talks with his Austrian counterpart on the sidelines of the Copenhagen EU summit on Friday, and said afterwards that Prague was not willing to make a bilateral agreement on the plant. Other EU members are opposed to Austria's desire to have a clause on Temelin included in the Czech Republic's accession agreement. The plant's critics say it is unsafe.
As the Copenhagen summit got underway, Czech farmers blocked several key border crossings with the EU in protest of the level of farming aid the country will receive upon entry. Hundreds of farmers used tractors and other equipment to cut off passage to Austria and Germany leaving long lines of cars stranded on both sides of the border for over two hours. The EU has proposed phasing in income support for farmers starting from 25 percent of the level received by farmers in the current EU member states and allowing the candidates to use cash from EU rural development funds and national budgets to top up those payments to 50 percent or more. Czech farmers are unhappy with the proposal expressing the view that the country's ticket to the EU will cost them their livelihood. Farming accounts for only two percent of the Czech Republic's GDP and employs about four percent of the working population.
The European Union and ten candidate countries are engaged in a final round of accession talks at a two day summit in Copenhagen. The negotiations will centre on the candidates' demand to use all 42.5 billion euros earmarked for enlargement by EU leaders back in 1999 in Berlin. The Danish offer, which some EU members find overly generous, is about two billion euros short of that sum. Politicians predict much haggling over the amount of EU aid for the newcomers before a deal is reached, late on Friday or Saturday, on the EU's biggest ever expansion to create the world's largest single market in 2004.
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