Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.
The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said the European Union should aim to be ready to accept new members by the year 2003. Mr Schroeder, who was in Prague on Thursday for a one-day official visit, told reporters that the Czech Republic and several other candidates had targeted the year 2003 as a possible date of accession, and that the Union should be ready to accept them. The Czech Republic, once seen as a model candidate for accession, has fallen behind in recent years, and this October´s annual EU report on economic and legal transformation is expected to be critical. Mr Schroeder promised German support for the Czech bid to join the Union, and criticised the centre-right opposition for re-opening the issue of the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia´s German community.
A new opinion shows support for the ruling Social Democrats at its lowest level since the June 1998 elections. A poll released by the Sofres-Factum agency on Thursday showed the party in third place with just 12 percent. In first place were the centre-right Civic Democrats with 19 percent, followed by the Communist Party with 14 percent. The survey confirms findings by rival polling agencies over recent months, showing the popularity of the Social Democrat government falling steadily. At the same time the largely-unreformed Communist Party appears to be consolidating its strong position in the polls.
The leader of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus has called on the banking sector to defend itself from criticism by President Vaclav Havel. Mr Klaus says bankers should respond to a recent newspaper interview with Mr Havel, in which the president criticised banks for issuing risky loans. Mr Havel said the banks had on many occasions failed to investigate the credit history of their clients before issuing loans, and this had contributed to the collapse of more than a dozen banks in recent years. Mr Klaus said the banking sector´s failure to respond to the allegations would in effect serve to confirm them. A total of sixteen banks have either gone bankrupt or have been bought by larger banks to save them from bankruptcy since 1993.
Two employees of a Czech humanitarian aid organisation were released on Thursday after being detained for more than twenty-four hours in a Serb enclave of eastern Kosovo. The director of the People in Need foundation said the two were surrounded on Wednesday morning in the village of Jezovica by a crowd of angry Serbs. The two men were reportedly beaten and their car was said to have been damaged. They were eventually released following the intervention of Dutch, German and Polish K-FOR troops.
Czech airspace was finally fully open on Friday morning following a week of industrial action by air traffic controllers. All staff arrived for work on Friday, ending a week of delays and disruption as some controllers stayed at home in a protest over excessive overtime. Management and union representatives say talks are now underway to resolve the dispute.
German police have arrested two Czech citizens in Munich, after they discovered three kilograms of heroin in the boot of their car. A twenty-five-year-old man and his seventeen-year-old sister have been charged with drugs offences. Police are now searching for their accomplices.
And we´ll end as usual with a quick look at Friday´s weather. Today will be another cloudy day here in the Czech Republic, with the chance of showers in some parts of the country. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius, falling to a low of 9 degrees at night. The weekend should be warmer with clearer skies and sunshine.
I´m Rob Cameron, and that's the end of the news.
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