The defence ministers of the Visegrad Group -a lose alliance of four Central European states - are to meet in Prague on Monday to debate future cooperation within the European Union. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary joined the EU on May 1st but have agreed to maintain Visegrad Group cooperation which helped them meet EU accession criteria. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have particularly close ties, due to 70 years of coexistence in the former Czechoslovak federation. Both countries faced similar problems in bringing their military technology to NATO standards and are now considering the possibility of close cooperation in protecting their air-space.
The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, discussed the planned constitution for the European Union with his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Spidla, while on a short visit to Prague on Thursday. Mr Ahern, who is also currently the President of the European Council, said disagreements remained over when to use qualified majority voting, while Mr Spidla said he believed it was likely agreement would be reached over the controversial constitution.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have signed a memorandum committing their countries to maintaining their special relationship within the European Union, which both joined at the beginning of May. The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the Czech Republic had not signed and would not sign such an agreement with any other country. During two days of talks in Prague the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda met with President Klaus, Prime Minister Spidla and members of Parliament to debate various aspects of bilateral cooperation and changes brought about by the countries' entry to the EU.
Amnesty International has welcomed the Czech government's decision to prevent the sale of a Czech-made radar system to China. The Cabinet on Wednesday agreed that the sale was not in line with the country's foreign policy interests and asked the Industry and Trade Ministry to revoke a sales license it approved at the beginning of the year. News of the planned sale brought criticism from politicians at home and abroad. The Vera radar is a highly sensitive surveillance system, the successor to the Tamara radar which is said to be able to detect US stealth aircraft. Amnesty has proposed that in its annual report on arms exports the Czech Republic also include rejected license applications.
A spokesman for President Vaclav Klaus has dismissed as absurd a charge of treason levelled against the president by a Christian Democrat senator. Senator Zdenek Barta has drafted a constitutional charge of treason against President Klaus for failing to propose suitable new judges to the Constitutional Court, which currently lacks the necessary number of judges to do its business. The Senate has found many of the President's candidates unacceptable, which accounts for the vacancies. The President's chancellor, Jiri Weigl, said the charge was politically motivated and groundless.
The government has decided to revoke the licences of Czech companies selling an advanced radar system to China. At a meeting on Thursday the cabinet said selling the Czech-made Vera radar system to China was not in the Czech Republic's foreign policy interests. A decision earlier this year to grant licences to export the radar system to China met with criticism from the United States and some Czech politicians; Vera is a passive surveillance system and the successor to the Tamara system, which is said to be able to detect US stealth aircraft.
Around 4,000 people die in the Czech Republic every year due to combining inappropriate medicines, a spokesman for the Czech Medical Chamber said on Thursday. Lubomir Chudoby said that only around a half of people suffering from chronic illnesses use medicines correctly, adding that the consumption of medicines in general was on the increase in this country.
The results of two opinion polls released on Thursday suggest the Civic Democrats would get the most votes in the Czech Republic's first ever elections to the European Parliament in the middle of June. The Communists would come second, according to the polls by the STEM and TNS Factum agencies. The largest party in the governing coalition, the Social Democrats, would finish third, the polls found.
The cabinet has approved a package of measures aimed at fighting corruption. They include a tougher conflict of interest law, allowing undercover agents to offer bribes and greater transparency in banking transactions. The measures - agreed on Wednesday evening - must now be approved in parliament. Meanwhile, the opposition Civic Democrats have described the measures as inadequate.