The Social Democrat Party, which currently forms the Czech Republic's minority government, parted with its chairman, Milos Zeman on the first day of a three-day party conference on Friday, with a standing ovation, roses, and live music from a Moravian dulcimer band. Mr. Zeman has resigned as party chairman, but remains in the post of Czech Prime Minister. Speaking to his colleagues, he noted that the Social Democratic Party has proved to the country that it can rule, and the next step should be its transformation from a minority to a majority government. He also said that the party's rule had helped to pull the country out of a crisis by increasing GDP and salaries, and decreasing unemployment and crime. Mr. Zeman's successor will be elected during the course of the conference.
The main opposition Civic Democrats have called on to the Czech government to halt an ongoing public tender for the purchase of supersonic planes for the Czech armed forces. Civic Democrat Shadow Defence Minister, Petr Necas, told journalists that there were more important things that the army should be focusing on and added that, within the next three years, the purchase of supersonic planes should not even be considered. He believed the public tender to be a waste of time, as he had serious doubts that the ruling Social Democrats will be able to get the parliamentary majority necessary to get approval for the project.
During a meeting at Prague Castle, the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and Czech President Vaclav Havel agreed that tough negotiations between Czech delegates and the EU during accession talks would not cause a delay in the date for Czech accession. Critics have noted that the Czech Republic has been slow with negotiations. Having closed only fifteen chapters so far, it is several chapters behind the other frontrunner candidates for EU membership. After the meeting with Mr. Prodi, however, President Havel assured journalists that there was no cause for concern, as he was certain that all the necessary chapters would be closed by the middle of next year.
Activists fighting against racism have reported that more and more foreign nationals have been coming to the Czech Republic to visit concerts that propagate racism. One such concert, organised by neo-nazis, which will feature four foreign bands, is expected to take place on Saturday night on the outskirts of Prague. All visitors are to meet at Prague's main railway station, from where they'll be taken to the venue by the concert's organisers. One anti-racist campaigner, Ondrej Cakl, told journalists that the attendance of foreign nationals at such concerts has increased not only because of the country's ideal location, but also because of the Czech police's lax attitude towards racist events. According to the police force in Prague, however, security measures regarding Saturday's concert are already underway.
The Austrian police detained two groups of Indian refugees on Friday, who were allegedly trying to enter Austria from the Czech Republic illegally. The police reported that the 12 refugees were accompanied by two Czechs, who are believed to have been trying to smuggle them across the border. The two groups were caught at Drasenhoven and Poysdorf, two villages between border points. They were detained for questioning and will be sent back to the Czech Republic if they do not seek political asylum.
And finally, a quick look at the weather. Night-time lows on Friday are expected to drop to two degrees Celsius. Saturday should see cloudy to overcast skies with scattered rain showers in places. Daytime temperatures are expected to range from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius.
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