The Lower House of the Czech Parliament has passed an amendment to the law on political parties and movements. The amendment stipulates that a party will receive 900 thousand Czech crowns from the state for each of its MPs and Senators. The vote was a snub to President Havel, because on Tuesday the Constitutional Court accepted Mr Havel's proposal to abolish that part of the law under which a party was to receive a million crowns for each of its mandates. MPs also approved legislation which will ensure that those parties, which obtain at least three percent of the vote in a general election, will receive a financial contribution from the state worth 6 million crowns a year.
Differing views on further NATO expansion should not prevent the Czech Republic and Russia from closer cooperation. Czech president Vaclav Havel and chairman of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, Yegor Stroiev agreed on this at a meeting in Prague on Friday. While the Czech Republic fully supports NATO's enlargement, Russia is strongly opposed to more countries entering the alliance. The presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek assessed Mr. Stroyev's visit as a sign of improving Czech-Russian relations. Mr Stroyev arrived in Prague only a month after the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited the Czech Republic. Mr. Strojev also expressed his country's wish to boost economic cooperation between the two countries.
President Vaclav Havel has also met with the visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. The main topics of their discussion were the two countries' future accession to the EU, the security situation in Europe and the upcoming NATO summit scheduled for next year in Prague. President Havel said he fully supported Lithuania's bid to become a full-fledged member of a united Europe, adding that he saw EU expansion as a guarantee of European security. Mr. Valionis said that Lithuania's first step on its way back to Europe would be its full membership of the EU.
After a fierce debate on Friday, the Upper House of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, failed to introduce new rules on granting Senators immunity from prosecution. A group of Christian Democratic Senators put forward a proposal to reduce the extent to which Senators are protected from prosecution. The proposal would have meant that minor offences committed by Senators would be assessed in the same way as those committed by ordinary citizens. Only 50 Senators out of 81 were present at the Senate and the issue has been postponed to one of the Senate's future sessions.
The Drietoma - Stary Hrozenkov border check point between the Czech Republic and Slovakia was blocked for four hours on Friday by Slovak trade unionists protesting against low wages and the high unemployment rate in Slovakia. Although the check point was sealed, there were no queues because the police had diverted traffic far enough from the check point. The Slovak trade unionists also blocked two check points on the Slovak - Polish border and another two between Slovakia and Hungary.
And finally the weather: We expect a cloudy weekend with rain in places and with daytime highs between 3 and 8 degrees Celsius.
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