A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed on Thursday that the Czech Republic - together with Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary as well as the Baltic states - has addressed members of the US Congress in a letter presenting a joint-stance towards possible changes to the US visa waiver programme. The spokesman said that the initiative was aiming to secure the best possible negotiating conditions regarding possible visa-free relations. The countries that signed the letter established the so-called Coalition for Visa Equality last year. Earlier US representatives indicated that the visa waiver programme could be broadened at the end of US President George W. Bush's final term in office.
The European Commission will warn the Czech Republic next week that it is failing to do enough to rein in its public finance deficit: a statement was issued by an EU official on Thursday. The European Union launched legal action against the Czech Republic in 2004 requiring the country to bring its deficit below an EU-limit of three percent of the gross domestic product by 2008. Although the Czech deficit is thought to have dropped within the limit to 2.9 percent last year, the Commission's most recent forecasts predict it rising to 3.9 percent in 2007.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has decided to not accept an award for humanism in a ceremony in Montenegro on Monday that he was to receive for his contributions. Mr Havel was reportedly asked by Montenegrin intellectual circles protesting the awards to distance himself from Monday's ceremony, as figures like controversial former prime minister Milo Djukanovic, who served during the collapse of Yugoslovia in the 1990s, will be among those recognised. The award is being given by the International League of Humanists (ILH).
In related news, speaking at the presidents' conference in Brno on Friday Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek backed a plan for parts of a broader US missile defence shield to be hosted by Poland and the Czech Republic. He called the system a "necessary" step that would markedly increase security for the Czech Republic, its allies and neighbours. He and President Vaclav Klaus also pledged that the Czech Republic would support further expansion of the European Union. The conference in Brno lasts until Saturday.
The Czech government has decided to launch a legal challenge against the European Commission's decision to slash its 2008-2012 carbon dioxide emissions quota. The decision was taken at a special government session on Friday. In a statement Environment Minister Martin Riman said he was glad that the coalition government had accepted his decision to launch a lawsuit, indicating that, in his view, the European Commission had damaged the Czech Republic through a complex calculation model and bad data. In March the European Commission cut the proposed Czech carbon emissions quota by 14.8 percent to an annual 86.8 million tonnes between the years 2008 and 2012.
Czech tennis player Radek Stepanek will face a tough opponent in the upcoming opening round of the French Open. He will face Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, seeded fifth in the tournament. Draws for the grand slam event were completed in Paris on Friday. The Czech Republic's highest-ranked player Tomas Berdych, who is seeded 10th, will play Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. In the women's tournament the Czech Republic's best female player, Nicole Vaidisova, will face off first against Emanuelle Gagliard; Vaidisova made it to the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year.
The government committee for intelligence services has decided that the civilian counter-intelligence service (BIS) and the civilian intelligence (UZSI) will not merge under a new reorganisation of Czech intelligence. The government had been considering a merger of the two intelligence services for some time. But the plan was strongly criticised by some politicians and experts. The UZSI gathers foreign intelligence information for the government and senior officials, while the BIS operates in the Czech Republic, gathering for example information on potential terrorist threats, extremist groups, and illegal arms trading.
A crowd of around 5,000 residents in the Czech Republic's second-largest city of Brno gathered on Friday to get a chance to see the presidents of 15 central and eastern European states ahead of a two-day conference now underway. Some areas were blocked off to create a corridor for the arrival of the heads of state. The presidents are meeting in Brno as part of an annual conference this year hosted by Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Among topics on the agenda are relations with Russia and dialogue with the European Union, as well as the future of Kosovo and the safety of the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin.
The results of a new poll conducted by the CVVM agency have suggested that trust in the Czech government has gone up, increasing from 30 percent in April this year to 36 percent in May. By contrast, trust in President Vaclav Klaus, who traditionally enjoys high support, decreased slightly (by four percentage points) to 71 percent.
The foreigners police in Prague arrested five Bulgarian women on Thursday night during an operation aimed at prostitutes in the city centre. A spokesperson said three of 14 women questioned by the police had previously been ordered to leave the country, though their deadline for leaving had not yet arrived. Last year the Czech foreigners police expelled a total of 1,900 people, Czech Television reported.
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