President Vaclav Havel will be released from hospital next week, as he continues to recover from bronchitis and signs of pneumonia. Mr Havel's personal doctor, Ilja Kotik, told reporters on Friday that the President's lungs were clearing, and that he would be allowed home at the beginning of the week. President Havel's latest health problems began on Monday, when he was forced to abandon a state visit to Kuwait and was taken straight to hospital on his arrival to Prague. The 64-year old president nearly died after surgery in 1995 to remove a tumour along with part of his lung, and doctors have since been extremely careful about his respiratory system.
The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has said his dream is of a federal Europe, with common defence, social, foreign and environment policies. Speaking to a conference of Social Democrat youth organisations in Vienna, Mr Zeman also said he was in favour of a common European Constitution, and defended the idea of a Europe of diverse peoples. The Czech Republic is a front-runner candidate for membership of the European Union, and hopes to join the EU in 2003.
Meanwhile the German government has published a study backing its case for a delay in opening EU labour markets when candidate countries from Eastern Europe join the Union. The study claimed that massive wage differences and poor job prospects in the leading candidate countries could lead to up to four million people from new Eastern member states migrating to the West if the EU opened its doors open immediately. The study, by two leading think-tanks, was completed last December, the month Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for a seven-year delay on the free movement of labour from new EU member states. Mr Schroeder's call has been harshly criticised by governments in Eastern Europe, but received strong backing on Thursday from Germany's 16 federal states.
The Czech Republic has asked the European Union for a permanent exemption on legislation governing the production of slivovice, or plum brandy. The Czech News Agency report claimed the distilling of slivovice did not conform to the EU's directives on the production of fruit-based spirits. Mostly produced in Moravia, slivovice differs from similar plum brandies because alcohol is added to the mixture during the distilling process, a procedure banned in the EU.
A police spokeswoman has confirmed that a Czech officer serving in the international police force in Kosovo was shot and slightly wounded on Friday morning during an operation to arrest an Albanian suspect. The Czech Interior Ministry says the man was shot in the arm, but the injury was not serious and the officer would probably be well enough to return to service in three weeks' time. Some 30 Czech policemen are currently serving in the international police force in Kosovo.
A new opinion poll shows a majority of people are concerned at the possible misuse of information to be gathered in a forthcoming census, the Czech Republic's first as an independent country. 61 percent of respondents to the poll, by the STEM agency, said they were worried about information falling into the wrong hands after the nation-wide count, which takes place on the night of February 28th. Human rights groups have already protested against several parts of the census form, including the mandatory filling-in of the 'rodne cislo' - the registration number given to all Czech citizens at birth.
The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, is in South Africa to discuss trade relations and human rights during a four-day visit to the country. Mr Kavan has met a number of senior South African officials, and his spokesman said the two sides had agreed to work towards greater economic co-operation. President Vaclav Havel will probably visit South Africa at the end of this year, to attend a major conference on racism.
And finally the weather: We expect a cloudy weekend with snow in the mountain areas, and daytime highs between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius.
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