During talks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Budapest, EU newcomer states on Friday signalled they were prepared to accept a small cut in the aid they receive from EU coffers in order to allow a breakthrough in the bloc's tough budget negotiations. The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia said they could agree to a small cut if it was offset by easier access to funding. The newcomers first reacted with stiff opposition to Britain's proposal to cut regional aid but diplomats said that the talks in Budapest had been useful and some compromise ideas were beginning to gain currency. Britain is due to announce its detailed proposals on Monday.
The lower house of Parliament on Friday approved the government proposed state budget for 2006. It envisages a deficit of 74,4 billion crowns, with expenditures at 958 billion and an income of 884 billion crowns. As expected the budget was approved with the votes of the three coalition parties. The opposition Civic Democratic Party opposed it while the Communists abstained from the vote.
The Senate has definitively rejected a government proposed bill on referendum which would have enabled the public to have a say in fundamental decisions regarding domestic and foreign policy. Opponents of the bill said that it failed to clearly define what matters could be decided by referendum. Senators also pointed out that the proposed bill did not determine the minimal turnout for a referendum to be valid. Since this was a constitutional bill, the lower house cannot override the Senate's veto.
Former prime minister Stanislav Gross has told a parliamentary commission he accepted no bribes in the 2004 sale of the Czech chemicals giant Unipetrol. Mr Gross also told the commission that businessman Andrej Babis in no way influenced the government in the sale. Allegations over improprieties in the sale of Unipetrol have been under investigation ever since a Polish lobbyist went public with videotape claiming a government aide had asked him for a five million crown bribe. The former prime minister and others flatly denied the corruption charges.
Saturday is expected to be partly cloudy to overcast across most of the Czech Republic with sleet or snow showers and day temperatures between minus one and plus three degrees Celsius.
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