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The Czech Republic urged the European Union on Thursday to set a target date for concluding talks with candidate countries. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, explained that the Czech Republic had asked for a date marking the end of the talks, as opposed to one which would state when Prague could become a fully fledged member. European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen told reporters that he wanted the Czech Republic to be among the first to enter the European Union.
Speaking in Brussels, after showing Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan an EU progress report on the Czech Republic, Mr Verheugen said the long awaited document examining the preparations of candidates, will not decide which country is in the worst or best position.
He noted that the EU is not suggesting that some countries are ahead in their preparations, while others are behind. Both statesmen advised journalists to wait until Wednesday to read the document for themselves when it is made public.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has said that he knows there will be some points in the report which will be quite critical of the Czech Republic. According to Mr Kavan, the European Union Commissioner understands the problems facing the Czech Republic and knows that many of these problematic issues were inherited from the previous government. As a result, he believes the present government will be exempt from much of the expected criticism. Gunter Verheugen told journalists on Thursday that many of the difficulties currently being faced by the Prague cabinet are the result of the Czech political system and poor communication between Czech MP's. Referring to a document recently produced by the parties of the opposition coalition, on the Czech Republic's bid for EU membership, Mr Verheugen said European integration should not become a tool in internal political struggles.
Defying international and domestic criticism, the mayor of a northern Czech town vowed again on Thursday to erect a wall to isolate Romanies. Pavel Tosovsky, mayor of Usti nad Labem close to the border with Germany, insisted on Thursday that the Maticni Street Wall will go up to separate a Romany community from a housing estate and that no outside interference would be tolerated. His remarks came as dozens of Romanies placed themselves between concrete pillars to stop the work on the wall, underway, since construction began on Monday.
A Romany spokesman said the wall was "Proof of repression of Romanies in the Czech Republic". The wall has caused protest both abroad and at home. Czech Premier Milos Zeman recently declared that the controversial project is becoming a wall between the Czech Republic and the European Union. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky criticised the decision by the conservative town council to go ahead with the project. He said if the wall was built, the Czech Republic would block its own path into the European Union. President Vaclav Havel is also opposed to the wall, calling instead for social projects in the district.
A recent survey has shown that over half the population of the Czech republic believes that the issue damages the Czech Republic's image abroad. Many people told researchers that the government should put a stop to the affair by buying the houses from the Czechs who are complaining about their Romany neighbours.
Despite the local authority's decision to build the wall, the Social Democrat government wants parliament to decide this month on whether or not the scheme should go ahead.
Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda on the last day of his visit to Prague, is set to meet with the heads of both Chambers of the Czech Parliament on Friday. On Thursday Mr Dzurinda met with his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman. Top of the agenda was the issue of sorting out problems relating to property which used to belong to the state of Czechoslovakia. In the first step towards settling the matter, the two agreed to exchange Czech and Slovak banking shares. The final agreement on dividing up former federal property is expected to be signed on 24th November in the Slovak capital of Bratislava. On Thursday, Mikulas Dzurinda thanked Czech President Vaclav Havel in Prague for his part in bringing down communism in Czechoslovakia. He said that Vaclav Havel had given the country a chance for the future by breaking the communist hold through his work as a dissident. The Czech President for his part, assured the Slovak Premier of his support for Slovakia's membership of the European Union and NATO.
The Slovak premier is set to return home on Friday evening after a stroll through Prague with his wife.
South African Breweries (SAB) announced its intention on Thursday to purchase two Czech Pilsner Beer makers. Under the deal, by 2001, SAB will get all of Prazdroj, which brewed 5.3 million hectolitres last year, and the Moravian brewer Radegast, which produced 2.8 miullion hectolitres in 1998. The sale is expected to oopen up much larger distribution of Czech beer to the world and give the South African company a place a in the heart of Europe. In recent years, the investment bank, Nomura Securities had already acquired most of the stock of Plzensky Prazdroj, and Radegast, the other company SAB is taking control over.
The move announced on Thursday, comes in spite of great consternation among Czechs that the beer, which is a source of national pride, will change. Nomura managers have assured that they would never tamper with the craft and SAB said on Thursday that it too had no intention of trampling on tradition. Prazdroj was the largest global brewer before the first world war and claims to have been the most imported beer to America before the communist takeover in 1948.
The Czech head of Prazdroj said earlier this year that he believed the brand could expand five times over current production, capitalising on growing high end tastes in the former Soviet bloc and regaining glory in Europe and America.
Deputy Secretary-General of NATO Edgar Buckley is set to begin a visit to Prague on Friday. He will be accompanied by a delegation of NATO representatives in Europe. His first appointment is with Czech defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security Petr Necas.
The weather on Friday will bring us cloudy skies with the possibility of scattered showers. Maximum temperatures should reach about fourteen degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to two degrees Celsius.
I'm Dita Asiedu and that's the end of the news.
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