The Lower House on Tuesday voted that 17 of its members who have been observers to the European Parliament since last year will remain as temporary deputies until the June elections to the European Parliament. The upper house of parliament, the Senate, confirmed its seven observers last week. All 24 temporary deputies will represent the Czech Republic in the European Parliament from May 1st, when the Czech Republic joins the EU, to July 19th, when the newly elected deputies will be ready to take up their mandates.
President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla met on Wednesday to discuss Czech policy and priorities within the enlarged EU. The meeting was initiated by President Klaus who wished to discuss a government draft concept outlining Czech policy and priorities within the EU up until 2013. In mid-March, Mr. Klaus sent a letter to the prime minister with a list of objections and points that needed clearing up. The letter was published on the website of the presidential office on Wednesday. As the date of EU accession nears, talks on EU matters are intensifying at all levels. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda travelled to Paris on Wednesday evening for talks with his French counterpart Michel Barnier. The main topic on their agenda is EU enlargement.
The heads of four heavily indebted hospitals in Moravia and Silesia have been sacked by local government authorities. The accumulated losses of these hospitals reached 318 million crowns last year, up from 142 million in 2002. Their replacements will have to introduce effective cost-cutting measures which would enable the hospitals to survive and repay their debts.
The Neo-Nazi organisation National Resistance has published a list of its biggest enemies, the country's main commercial station TV Nova reported on Monday. Some fifty personalities, including members of the Roma community, the Communist Party, as well as anarchists, have been black listed on the organisation's web site. Some of the people on the list have said they feared for their safety as they know of cases where members of the National Resistance have brutally attacked people they did not like. According to TV Nova, the Czech police have been monitoring extreme-right internet sites for some time now.
Romanian President Ion Iliescu is on a three-day official visit to the Czech Republic. Shortly after his arrival on Tuesday, he gave a speech on integration and globalisation at Prague's Carolinum and officially opened the new Romanian Culture Institute. President Iliescu is also scheduled to meet his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus, visit the Czech Parliament, and give a lecture at Charles University. On Wednesday evening, he will be travelling to the Moravian capital Brno and southern Moravia to commemorate Romanian soldiers who fell in the Second World War in the town of Kromeriz.
Two men who suffered serious burns in a gas explosion at an oil refinery in Iraq have been flown to the Czech Republic and are now in intensive care at Prague's Vinohrady hospital. Both are on respirators, in critical condition. Another Czech expert was killed in the explosion. The Foreign Ministry and the Czech Chemoprojekt company, which is helping to reconstruct one of southern Iraq's three refineries have stressed that the explosion was in no way linked to terrorism.
A Czech Airlines (CSA) flight carrying 116 passengers from Prague to Amsterdam was forced to turn back on Sunday after experiencing technical difficulties. A spokesperson for the national carrier said the plane, a Boeing 737-400, suffered problems with its engine, forcing it to return to Prague's Ruzyne airport shortly after take-off. CSA management says the passengers on the flight were never in any danger and has attributed the growing number of technical problems experienced in the past few months to the significantly larger number of flights offered this year.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has expressed surprise at the failure of Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan to win the first round of direct presidential elections, which were held in neighbouring Slovakia on Saturday. The election results see the former controversial prime minister, Vladimir Meciar, and his former right-hand man Ivan Gasparovic (both opposition candidates) advance to the second round on April 17. Mr Spidla added, however, that he was convinced Czech-Slovak relations would continue to blossom, no matter who is elected president.
The Czech book "Labyrintem Revoluce", which translates into "Through the Labyrinth of the Revolution", a view of the Velvet Revolution and the political development that followed, has won the Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award. The winners of the Magnesia Litera book awards for the best Czech books published in 2003 were announced at Prague's City Library on Saturday night. Book of the Year author, Jiri Suk, also won the first prize in the non-fiction category.
Latest figures released by the Czech Statistics Office show that exports to EU states have risen significantly in the first two months of this year. Czech exports to the European Union have increased by 8.7 percent year on year to amount to 165.6 billion Czech crowns. The demand for Czech products mainly rose in Belgium, Italy, Austria and Germany. Exports to France, on the other hand, have decreased.
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