The European Commission launched an initiative in Prague on Friday to draw ordinary citizens into the debate about the future of the European Union. Following the No-votes on the European constitution in the Netherlands and France this year, the so-called "Plan D", standing for democracy, dialogue and discussion, is the EU executive's attempt to stir up discussion which can help decide the future of the union. At a news conference with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the Czech capital on Friday, Commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom said this was the first of a number of visits to member states to try and stimulate discussion.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who is on a visit to the West Bank, has expressed support for the Middle East peace process. After talks with his Palestinian counterpart, Nasser al-Kidwa in Ramallah on Saturday, Mr Svoboda said that there should be two stable and prosperous states at the end of the peace process and that political dialogue was the only way forward. Minister Svoboda had arrived in the Palestinian territories from Pakistan where he had brought part of Czech humanitarian aid onboard his special flight on Wednesday.
The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has received the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Arts. Mr. Havel received the award from Austrian President Heinz Fisher at Hofburg Palace in Vienna on Friday. President Fisher said Vaclav Havel had been chosen for this honour mainly due to his merit in strengthening relations between Prague and Vienna.
The ruling Social Democratic Party is determined to push through as much of its policy programme as possible before next years general elections. The party's acting chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told newsmen on Friday that there were 51 government proposed bills that the ruling party would try to push through Parliament in the coming months either with support from its coalition partners or the opposition Communist Party. The mentioned bills involve a conflict of interest bill, one on bankruptcy and a bill on rent-deregulation, all of which have proved problematic in the past.
A regional court judge faces a disciplinary hearing for failing to prolong the custody of a man charged with drug dealing, as a result of which he had to be set free. The judge from the Ostrava regional court claims to have overlooked the task in the midst of other pressing work. The court's chairman Vit Vesley said it was a cardinal mistake and the judge would have to face the consequences. The man who had to be set free as a result of this mistake was the head of an organized group of Vietnamese and Russian drug dealers.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso met for talks with Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Friday. According to the CTK news agency they failed to agree on the scope of EU integration and the status of a European constitution. Mr. Barroso, who is in Prague to launch a "dialogue, democracy and debate" initiative aimed at bringing the European Union closer to its citizens, urged further EU integration. President Klaus, who is strongly anti-federalist, said he particularly welcomed the EU initiate since he felt that there was a lack of open debate on problems of European integration, particularly following the rejection of the European Constitution by Dutch and French voters.
The health ministry claims that the General Health Insurance company VZP is making obstructions to an inspection ordered by the health minister. The head of the ministry's inspection team Vladimir Dryml said the insurance company was not cooperating as it should. VZP spokesman Jiri Suttner rejected the allegation, saying that the insurance company's employees were working day and night to prepare the documents requested by the ministry. Health Minister David Rath recently imposed forced administration on the insurance company, largely due to its growing debt.
Well-known Czech musician Michal Kocab, together with architect Borek
Sipek, were prevented from trying to hang a European Union flag at one
of the courtyards at Prague Castle on Thursday, after hinting they
might take just such a step in October. The move was blocked on
Thursday by a member of the Prague Castle guard. Previously, Mr Kocab
and Mr Sipek - architect to former president Vaclav Havel - expressed
dissatisfaction with the current president's refusal to fly the flag.
The EU flag can be flown together with the national flag at official
sites including the seat of government, the Foreign Ministry, as well
as the office of the president. Mr Klaus has declined the option so
His predecessor Vaclav Havel criticised Mr Klaus' decision on Thursday as "just short of scandalous".
President Vaclav Klaus as well as the prime minister and other public
figures have marked the 16th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. 16
years ago this day an attack by riot police against demonstrating students
on Prague's Narodni trida sparked mass protests that led to the fall
of Czechoslovakia's communist regime. Speaking with journalists on
President Klaus described November 17th, 1989 as a "key moment
in Czech history", saying those who had experienced the events that
followed "experienced the birth of freedom".
Accompanied by Prague Lord Mayor Pavel Bem, and Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka, Mr Klaus laid flowers at the site where students on Narodni trida were attacked. A little later in the day the site was also visited by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek.
In its latest economic forecast the European Commission has rated as strong the Czech Republic's economic growth, 4.8 percent this year. According to the forecast the Czech economy will remain strong in the years 2006 and 2007, but growth will decelerate somewhat - to a predicted 4.3 percent by 2007. According to the commission, growth until now has been spurred by vigorous exports.
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