President Vaclav Havel and fellow leaders of EU candidate countries have appealed to the people of Ireland to vote "yes" to the EU's enlargement treaty, saying rejection would be a "great disappointment". In a joint statement issued ahead of Saturday's referendum in Ireland, the presidents of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said rejecting the Nice Treaty - which introduces reforms crucial to the enlargement process - would squander a historic opportunity. Ireland, the only EU member required to hold a referendum on the issue, rejected the treaty last year in a vote marked by low turnout and confusion over what the agreement would mean.
The Civic Democratic Party says that work on a constitutional amendment that would enable the President to be elected by the people will be ready by the end of this week. The center right Civic Democrats , who were originally against direct presidential elections, are now pushing to get such an amendment approved since they believe it will increase their candidate's chances of winning the elections. Although such an amendment would now receive overwhelming support in Parliament it is not clear whether it could be approved in time for the presidential elections in January.
Preparations are underway for the upcoming NATO summit to be held from November 21st to November 22nd in the Czech capital Prague. Interior minister Stanislav Gross told journalists on Tuesday that work was progressing according to schedule. Mr. Gross said he would take full responsibility and resign if the security operation failed in any way. Over 1,000 specially trained officers will be protecting the delegates during their stay in the city . An estimated 12,000 protesters are expected to converge on the Czech capital for the two day summit and at least 12,000 police officers will be out on the streets to deal with street riots . The army will also be helping out with over 2,000 soldiers assigned to patrol-duty at Prague's main international airport, hotels and the conference center where the summit will take place. The authorities have asked Prague inhabitants to restrict their movement around the city over those two days. This is the first NATO summit to be held in a former communist state and as such it presents a major challenge for the local authorities.
Czech negotiators in Brussels say that consultations among EU member states on a common policy with regard to the conditions of the accession agreement for the Czech Republic have moved the talks forward. The competition chapter is expected to be closed at the end of next week and progress is also reported on the controversial agriculture chapter, where EU states have agreed to Czech demands for higher production quotas for sugar and potato starch. On the other hand, the EU states have shown little inclination to increase the number of seats which the Czech Republic will have in the European Parliament. The country has been allotted 20 seats and has complained that countries with a comparable population have at least two more.
Four British football rowdies have been charged with breach of the peace in connection with a brawl at a Prague nightclub. A group of around 40 British football fans on their way to the European qualifier match in Bratislava went on a drinking spree in the Czech capital and got into a brawl at one of Prague's nightclubs. They caused extensive damage and ten of them were detained for questioning by the police. In the Slovak capital Bratislava two British football fans were shot and wounded by private security guards when a group of about 60 fans refused to leave a pub at closing time in the early hours of Saturday. The incident is being investigated. After England's victory in the qualifier match against Slovakia the atmosphere is reported to have calmed down.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who on Saturday ended a three day official visit to France, has received assurances that France fully supports Czech membership in the European Union. The French Premier Jean Pierre Raffarin said during talks with Mr. Spidla, that the two countries had traditionally good relations and that even if the final stage of EU negotiations proved tough the Czech Republic could count on French support. The CTK press agency notes that according to opinion polls the French public is the least enthusiastic about EU expansion and the French government is preparing to address the issue in a broad information campaign later this year. The Czech Prime Minister's three day official visit to France focussed on bilateral ties, EU expansion and the upcoming NATO summit in Prague.
The Prague police is questioning a dozen British football rowdies in connection with a pub brawl on the eve of the European Championship qualifying match between England and Slovakia. Some 40 British football rowdies got into a brawl at the Atlas pub in Prague close to midnight on Friday , just hours before they were supposed to board a train for the Slovak capital Bratislava, where the match takes place. They demolished much of the pub's furnishings causing an estimated 100,000 crowns damage. There were no serious injuries. Another 300 British football fans boarded the morning train for Bratislava without incident. The situation was far more serious in the Slovak capital where two British fans were shot and wounded in the early hours of Saturday.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and the Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer have agreed to set up a joint team of experts which would debate controversial issues relating to the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia and nuclear energy in general. Since coming to office the Czech Foreign Minister has made concerted efforts to diffuse tension over the Temelin controversy and to de-politicize the issue. The Austrian Environment Minister has expressed appreciation of these efforts, saying that it was important to debate the issue of nuclear energy on broader scale from the point of view of a sustainable energy policy for the whole continent.
The Civic Democratic Party has nominated the party's outgoing chairman Vaclav Klaus for the post of President. The party also expressed support for direct presidential elections, saying that it was undignified for parties to haggle over who should be the next head of state. Mr. Klaus announced earlier this week that he would not run for re-election as party leader but would accept a nomination for the presidential elections. Mr. Klaus' chances of winning the elections are meager since none of the parties of the governing coalition, which has a slim majority in Parliament, are likely to support him. The Civic Democrats believe that in a direct vote Vaclav Klaus' chances of success would be much higher.
The European Commission has earmarked 24 million euros / 720 million Czech crowns/ for flood-relief projects in the Czech Republic. Half of the money is to be used for repairing damage to the country's infra-structure, the rest will be used for environment-related projects. The August floods devastated large parts of the Czech Republic, damaging nine out of thirteen regions. The overall damage estimate is close to 80 billion Czech crowns. Industrial dryers are still working around the clock and town halls are using available finances for the construction of new homes before the onset of winter.
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