The Slovak government has decided not to appeal a court verdict ordering it to pay 24.8 billion Slovak crowns (some 775 million US dollars) to the Czech bank CSOB (Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka). In December last year, the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled that Slovakia still had an outstanding debt to the Czech bank after it failed to pay back a loan from 1993. The Slovak Finance Ministry has promised to pay CSOB 16 billion Slovak crowns by Friday. The remaining sum owed would be paid by the beginning of next year with one percent interest.
The Czech Republic's Ambassador to NATO, Karel Kovanda, has been appointed the European Commission's Deputy Director General of External Relations. The 61-year-old former Ambassador to the United Nations will be the second Czech to become a senior European Commission official, after Marie Bohata was named Deputy Director General of Eurostat in October. Mr Kovanda is expected to take up his post in the coming weeks. The current Czech Ambassador to London, Stefan Fule, will most likely succeed Mr Kovanda in the post of Ambassador to NATO.
The Lower House of the Czech Parliament has decided to have all cash register activities of small businesses recorded and monitored. The use of the monitored cash registers is to help the government fight against the grey economy. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President, small retailers and restaurants will be obliged to use the registers as of January 2007. Those who would fail to comply could be fined up to half a million Czech crowns.
Europe needs more, not fewer, economic migrants despite public fears and high unemployment in West European countries, the EU Labour and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said on Wednesday. Speaking in an interview with the Reuters news agency, the former Czech prime minister warned there would be 20 million fewer workers in Europe, including migrants, over the next twenty years, due to an ageing population and falling birth rates. Mr Spidla also expects some of the 15 old EU member states will not extend the transition period on the free movement of workers from the 10 new countries, once the first two-year transitory period expires in 2006. Mr Spidla said he hopes to see a more flexible retirement system in the EU that would encourage more Europeans to work later in life, while providing pensions for those who needed to retire.
The European Commission has decided to add three Czech universities to the Erasmus Mundus programme - a co-operation programme in the field of higher education, aiming to promote the European Union as a centre of excellence in learning around the world. The three are Charles University and the Czech Technical University, both located in Prague, and the Palacky University in the Moravian town Olomouc. They will be added to a list of 69 universities that support European Masters Courses.
We can expect more rain and less snow in the next few days with temperatures rising above freezing point to reach a maximum of seven degrees Celsius by the end of the week.
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