President Vaclav Klaus has signed the state budget for 2004. The president approved next year's budget with a record deficit of 115 billion crowns, or 4.4 billion U.S. dollars. This year's deficit was 111.3 billion crowns. The Social Democrat-dominated cabinet has been severely criticised by the right-wing opposition, who say government spending is leading the country towards financial ruin.
Meanwhile leaders of the three parties in the coalition will meet outside Prague on Sunday to discuss the second phase of the government's controversial package of public finance reforms. Coalition leaders will discuss measures to fight the grey economy, continue tax and pension reform, and tackle problems in health insurance. The first package of eleven bills passed through parliament, but several have been vetoed by President Klaus.
The deputy prime ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic have admitted the influx of Slovak Romanies to the Czech Republic is a problem, but not a critical one. Czech Prime Minster Petr Mares and his Slovak counterpart Pal Csaky agreed at a meeting in Bratislava that a special commission would be set up to address the issue. So far this year more than 1,000 Roma families from Slovakia have sought asylum in the Czech Republic. Mr Mares said what he described as "social tourism" was unacceptable under European law. He said none of the 1,000 Slovak families would be granted asylum in his country.
The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, has said everyone in Europe should pay a visit to the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, north of Prague. Mr Verheugen, speaking during a visit to the camp, said the people of Europe must be reminded that peace and democracy cannot be taken for granted. More than 150,000 Jews from throughout Europe were interned at Terezin, known in German as Theresienstadt, before being transported to death camps such as Auschwitz. Today the camp, which also housed Czech political prisoners, is a museum.
Police in the northern town of Litvinov say a 62-year-old man has been found dead in a local park after apparently freezing to death. His body was discovered around 9 o'clock on Monday morning. An autopsy will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death.
Meteorologists have warned that high winds and snow drifts could affect much of the country in the days to come. Temperatures on Monday night will fall to lows of minus seven degrees Celsius, rising in the daytime on Tuesday to highs of 1 degree.
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