Meanwhile a dispute over the EU between Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and President Vaclav Klaus continued on Thursday, with Mr Svoboda again distancing himself from recent remarks made by the president. President Klaus said during last week's EU signing ceremony in Athens that his country would lose some of its sovereignty when it joins the Union, comments which were harshly criticised by Mr Svoboda. The Foreign Minister said in parliament on Thursday that equating EU membership with loss of sovereignty was the same as encouraging people not to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum. President Klaus has often been criticised for his negative comments about the European Union, which his country will join in May 2004.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen say they oppose a plan to create the post of President of the European Union. Mr Rasmussen, visiting Prague, said he was sceptical towards the idea, proposed by the chairman of the EU Convention on the future of Europe, Valery Giscard D'Estaing. The Danish prime minister said a full-time EU president - who would represent the EU internationally and chair meetings of the EU Council of Ministers - would lead to big member states having greater power over smaller ones. Prime Minister Spidla said Czech and Danish attitudes to the future of the EU were extremely close.
President Vaclav Klaus who is on a one day visit to neighbouring Austria
has said the Czech Republic is willing to talk but not to negotiate about
the issue of the Sudeten Germans' expulsion after the Second World War. Mr
Klaus added that for his part, he said all in a statement to mark the
March anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. At a joint
press conference with Mr Klaus, the Austrian President Thomas Klestil said
Austria felt the Sudeten German question had not yet been solved "in
a satisfactory way". In recent years Austria has been pressing for a
"gesture" by Prague over the Sudeten Germans issue. The Austrian
right-wing Freedom Party also demanded formal abolition of the post-war
Benes Decrees legitimising the expulsion, threatening that the Czechs
would otherwise be barred from EU membership.
Since becoming President in succession to Vaclav Havel in early March, Mr Klaus has toured the Czech Republic's neighbouring countries to stress the importance of good neighbourly relations. Austria is his fourth stop after visits to Slovakia, Poland and Germany.
An explosive device was discovered and defused near where Czech and Slovak soldiers are stationed at Camp Doha in Kuwait, Czech newspapers reported on Wednesday. The 30-centimetre long tube was discovered on Monday. A robot was employed to recover the device. Colonel Dusan Lupuljev, who commands the 400-member unit of nuclear-biochemical weapons experts, said the device may have been designed for demolition tasks.
A part of the Czech military field hospital, which is being set up in the Iraqi city of Basra, is due to start work on Friday morning, the Czech ambassador to Kuwait Jana Hybaskova told reporters. A suitable location for the field hospital has been found and construction will start as soon as the site is cleared up. The field hospital, which will have two operating theatres and a capacity of 50 beds, should start serving the civilian population in and around Basra at the beginning of May. It has been sent to Iraq on a humanitarian mission and is not part of the US-led military operation underway in the country.
Two year-old Hasan Khalaf, the son of Iraqi parents whose plight recently evoked a wave of sympathy in the Czech Republic, has been admitted to hospital for treatment of cerebral palsy. The boy's illness was Mrs Khalaf's main reason for coming to the country - the family arrived last Saturday at Prague airport, with representatives of a Paediatric Hospital Ward on hand to arrange treatment for the two year old. The treatment of the child, and acceptance of the Khalaf family in the Czech Republic, caps a dramatic turn in events: Mrs Khalaf was originally refused entry - allegedly for 'security reasons', despite the fact that she had a valid visa. The original refusal sparked angry protests from human rights activists, provoking widespread criticism of the foreign police.
President Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda remain at odds following a dispute last week in which Mr Svoboda criticised the president for recent remarks on the European Union. Mr Klaus found Mr Svoboda's criticism, which came after the signing of the EU accession treaty in Athens, personally insulting, and had asked the foreign minister to Prague Castle to explain. But, after their meeting Tuesday Mr Svoboda repeated he was standing by last week's comments, in which he called the president's knowledge of the European Union 'superficial'. While saying the meeting with the president was a 'good step', Tuesday, Mr Svoboda stressed that the country's foreign policy fell within the competency of the government. At the same time Mr Klaus' spokesman, Tomas Klvana, reminded journalists that it was the Czech president's right to comment on foreign affairs matters. After the accession treaty signing last week Mr Klaus warned that EU membership would cost the Czech Republic a measure of its sovereignty, provoking the foreign minister's criticism.
The police is searching for a group of skinheads who smashed up a pub and beat up several people before the start of a planned rock concert in the Moravian town of Zlin on Saturday night. Eye witnesses said a group of eight skinheads burst into the club and attacked pub visitors at random, using truncheons and even pub chairs. "It was a demonstration of force and there was nothing we could do" one of the musicians told the CTK press agency. Although the pub owner alerted the police the skinheads allegedly jumped into their cars and drove off before their arrival. One person was taken to hospital with serious back injuries, the others escaped with cuts and bruises. The police has appealed for assistance in catching the culprits, asking eyewitnesses to disclose any information that might help to trace them.
Planeloads of medical equipment and supplies are being flown to Kuwait City in preparation of the setting up of a Czech field hospital in Basra, southern Iraq. The defense ministry's press department said the operation was running smoothly and the equipment and medical supplies would be stored in Kuwait City until a suitable site for the field hospital had been found in Basra. Most of the hospital staff have already arrived in Kuwait. The Czech field hospital, which will have two operating theatres and a capacity of 50 beds, should serve the civilian population in and around Basra. It has been sent to Iraq on a humanitarian mission and is not part of the military operation underway in the country.
President Vaclav Klaus will call a referendum on the country's EU entry next week. Parliament has recommended a June 13th and 14th term and a spokesman for the President's office said on Friday that President Klaus would officially announce the referendum for those dates on April 24th. Opinion polls suggest that the Czech Republic will approve EU membership by a large margin.
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