The Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan has raised objections to a proposed "big bang" expansion of the European Union which would include as many as 10 mainly ex-communist countries. Mr. Kavan said he hoped to see each country considered on its own merit and accepted as soon as it had met the necessary criteria, as the EU had always maintained. The EU has not yet made any concrete decisions but according to enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen the block is leaning towards a broad "big bang expansion". The Dutch foreign minister Jozias van Aartsen, who met with a number of Czech top officials on Tuesday, said at a press briefing that he agreed with the Czech foreign minister. Taking up another sensitive issue the question of a transition period on free movement of labour for EU newcomers the Dutch foreign minister said his country was not in favour of the idea. Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan said in this connection that nothing should stand in the way of bilateral agreements with EU members who did not see the need for a transition period.
The Czech Lower House has rejected a proposed bill on school reform. The bill was subjected to strong criticism by opposition mps who said that the concept of financing was poorly planned, that the proposal would damage private schools and that no attention had been paid to the question of further educating staff. The Education Minister Eduard Zeman said that there would be no time to produce a new draft of the law in this government's term in office and that all he could promise were minor amendments.
Ignoring sharp criticism from anti-nuclear activists, Austrian environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer is determined to continue talks with Prague on the controverial Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Molterer told journalists there was no alternative to the talks and that the expanded environment impact report on Temelin delivered by Prague last Friday provided sufficient ground for further negotiations. The mentioned report contains new information about a defective turbine which has been the cause of numerous shut-downs as well as the alternative of mothballing the plant, which Vienna asked to be included in the environment impact study.
Jan Sochurek has resigned as spokesperson of the Czech Prison Service following allegations that he beat prisoners savagely when working as a prison warden. Two former political prisoners jailed under the communist regime said that Sochurek was a cruel and sadistic person who had taken pleasure in using brute force against prisoners in his charge. No convincing evidence against Sochurek has yet been produced, but Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures said that it was impossible for him to remain in his post under the circumstances and that Mr. Sochurek had agreed to resign of his own accord. While the matter is under investigation, Mr Sochurek has been given work in prison administration.
A board member of the Czech National Bank has expressed the view that the Czech Republic should remain outside the Euro-zone for another two to three years after becoming a fully fledged EU member. Speaking at a conference on the European single currency in Prague, Mrs. Michaela Erbenova said that the present adverse state of public finances indicated that the Czech Republic would not be ready for the challenge of the European Monetary Union for some years after EU admission. The country needs a public finance reform and for that purpose the government and National Bank need to retain their hold on all major fiscal policy decisions, Mrs Erbenova noted. A member of the Civic Democratic Party, which is known to be sceptical over whether there are any benefits to the single currency, expressed the view that without free movement of labour, the single currency would not bring many benefits anyway.
Police in Vienna say they have shot dead a man with Czech identity papers shortly after he attempted to kill a local taxi driver. According to the APA news agency, the man held the taxi driver at gunpoint, demanding that he be driven to Hungary. The driver managed to get the car to a local police station and was shot in the head right outside it. The culprit then fired several shots at police officers who appeared on the scene and was shot dead seconds later. The taxi driver is reported to have undergone surgery but doctors have refused to answer questions about his present condition.
No significant change is expected. Wednesday should be a partly cloudy day with temps between 17 and 21 degs C. A slight warming is expected in the second half of the week with Thursday's and Friday's temps forecast at between 21 and 25 degs.
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