The government has approved a plan recommending that up to 400 Czech soldiers participate in a multi-national stabilisation force in Iraq to help maintain the peace. The recommended include personnel from the Czech 7th field hospital, as well as 50 military police officers and 15 soldiers form the CIMIC unit for civil-military co-operation. On Wednesday government spokeswoman Anna Starkova said the government had also approved measures for the protection of Czech employees from the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Post-War Iraq. Both measures will still have to be approved by Parliament.
Agriculture Minster Jaroslav Palas has said the Czech Republic supports European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler's proposals to reform the EU's farm policy. Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Mr Palas added, however, that it was necessary to make clear how the reforms would affect new member countries. The Czech Republic is set to join the EU in May next year, subject to a referendum in three weeks time.
The President of the UN General Assembly Jan Kavan has rejected calls for him to resign in connection with a scandal concerning classified documents at the Czech foreign ministry. Classified documents which were believed to have been shredded under the former foreign minister Jan Kavan have unexpectedly come to light. During his ministerial term Mr. Kavan reportedly signed orders for some 400 documents classified top secret to be shredded. Two thirds of them have unexpectedly come to light. The materials in question allegedly include NATO documents. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told the CTK press agency it was not clear whether the act was intentional or simply a matter of gross negligence, but he said that in any case the incident had damaged the country's reputation. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has reportedly asked the National Security Office to look into the matter.
Attending a NATO Parliament conference in Prague, NATO Secretary General George Robertson said that the EU's emerging defense force and NATO will be "two sides of the same coin" with "no inconsistency". One example, he said was a Czech bio-chemical warfare detection battalion which had been requested last week by NATO and the United States and which would also be able to accept EU defense assignments. Many units would be complementary since the EU and NATO would not necessarily need them at the same time, Mr. Robertson said, addressing the question of how EU states could finance two defense structures.
A senior member of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, has said that Slovak Romanies are not welcome in the Czech Republic. Mr Necas, speaking on a TV discussion programme, said Slovakia was a democratic country and there was no reason for Slovak Roma to seek asylum in the Czech Republic. Around 500 Slovak families - mostly believed to be Romanies - have applied for asylum in the Czech Republic this year, citing poor living conditions and discrimination back home.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Prague has said the U.N. should play an important role in the reconstruction of Iraq. Members of the Assembly, representing the 19 NATO countries, said a new U.N. Security Council resolution would help stabilise the country. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, and last year hosted the first ever NATO summit to be held in the former Soviet bloc.
Members of the NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council have begun meeting in Prague. The meeting is part of the spring session of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, which represents the Alliance's 19 members. NATO members are in Prague for talks expected to be dominated by the recent conflict in Iraq. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, and last year hosted the first ever NATO summit to be held in the former Soviet bloc.
Some 78 percent of Czechs are likely to vote Yes to joining the EU, according to a poll by the TNS-Factum agency released on Friday. Turnout is expected to exceed 50 percent. Another poll by the STEM agency suggests the biggest worry voters have over EU accession is that prices will rise, with 27 percent expressing that concern. On the positive side, 47 percent of Czechs believe joining the EU will improve the workings of the country's legal system. If the referendum is passed, the country will join the union in May next year.
The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, and his Slovak counterpart,
Mikulas Dzurinda, have agreed to co-ordinate efforts to deal with the
increasing number of Slovak Romanies applying for asylum in the Czech
Republic. Speaking after talks in Prague on Friday, the two leaders said
ministries in both countries would set up joint working groups to deal
with the issue. Slovaks currently make up the largest group of asylum
seekers in the Czech Republic.
The Czech and Slovak prime ministers also said co-operation between the Visegrad Four, which also includes Poland and Hungary, would continue once all four join the European Union. Mr Dzurinda visited Prague less than a week after Slovaks voted to join the union; the Czech Republic is to hold a referendum on the matter in the middle of June.
Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban said on Thursday that the Czech Republic might expand its Temelin nuclear power plant even though its has yet to bring the station's first two reactors fully online after years of breakdowns and problems. The owner of Temelin and the country's main power producer, the state-controlled company CEZ, is to make a decision on new power sources next year. On Thursday the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban as saying the expansion of nuclear power is one option to replace at least 60 percent of the four-gigawatt capacity at obsolete coal-burning power plants over the next fifteen years. The south Bohemian nuclear plant has raised many protests in neighbouring Austria because of its combination of Soviet design and Western control systems. The Czechs government says the plant is safe.
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