Representatives of the six frontrunner candidate countries for EU accession have called on the Union to make a firm decision on enlargement at the Gothenburg summit in Sweden in June. Government representatives from Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic made a joint declaration at the end of a meeting in Prague to discuss EU accession preparations. These candidate countries want to see a clear timetable decided upon at the Gothenburg summit and they hope to join the European Union in 2004 so that they will be able to participate in European parliamentary elections. The Luxembourg Six, as the frontrunner group is known, also called on the EU member states to resolve the sensitive issue of the free movement of labour within an expanded Union.
The Lower House of Parliament has passed a new law on ethnic minorities, with the support all parties bar the main opposition Civic Democratic Party, which opposes the law, and the Communist Party, which abstained. According to Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, the new law provides a proper structure for the institutions that help minorities, allows for the use of minority languages for some official documents, and means that signposts and street names in ethnic minority communities will become bilingual. The opposition Civic Democrats say the law is unnecessary as they believe it will make racial cohabitation more complicated in the Czech Republic.
A Czech study claims that not putting the Temelin nuclear power plant on line would cost Czech taxpayers almost three billion US dollars. The study is part of an agreement between the Czech and Austrian governments to examine the impact of Temelin on the environment, and alternatives to putting the plant on-line. There are grave concerns in Austria that the plant, located just fifty kilometres from the Austrian border, is unsafe. The new study into the so-called 'zero option' of not putting Temelin on-line says that together with the investment into constructing the plant, and the funds required to safely dispose of the nuclear fuel already at Temelin, this option would cost 117 billion Czech crowns, or almost three billion US dollars.
The Czech crown has dropped to a six-month low against the US dollar, closing at 39.95 crowns to the dollars on Wednesday. Analysts expect the crown to drop to more than forty to the dollar, before stabilising.
The Czech Republic has signed a UN treaty banning the production and use of twelve types of toxic material. The Czech Environment Minister, Milos Kuzvart, signed the treaty along with the environment ministers of ninety other countries in Stockholm in Sweden. The twelve toxins are all considered to cause permanent environment damage. Mr Kuzvart told journalists that he did not foresee any problems with the implementation of the treaty, as he said that the Czech Republic has already introduced bans on most of these toxins already.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who suffered a minor heart attack last week in the US has cancelled an official visit to Greece and several meetings in Prague. A ministry spokesman said that Mr Kavan will have a more relaxed schedule over the next few weeks, in order to recover from the attack. The foreign minister had a quadruple bypass operation on his heart late last year. Mr Kavan seemed to recover well from the operation, but the small heart attack he suffered in the US required him to stay in a hospital overnight.
Officials from the Prague Stock Exchange Commission have entered the premises of the stock brokerage firm Private Investors, which collapsed under suspicious circumstances on Monday. The commission hopes to ascertain the reason for the company's sudden collapse, which has caused the company's some 2,400 clients damages of hundreds of millions of Czech crowns.
The High Court in Prague has rejected the appeal of a man convicted for a series of brutal attacks on women in Prague. Olexander Kravz was sentenced last year to twenty five years for attacks on eleven women, and for raping and savagely murdering a twenty-seven-year-old artist in Prague. The High Court rejected the appeal on Wednesday, saying that based on the testimony if experts, Mr Kravz is a sadistic criminal, who should not be allowed back into society for a long time. He is also due to receive psychiatric treatment while in prison.
According to the Czech Minister for Regional Development, Petr Lachnit, the Czech Republic's Gross Domestic Product could reach seventy five percent of European Union levels by 2006. But the minister said that this will be dependent on the Union accepting at least six new member states in 2003. Mr Lachnit's comments came following an economic conference in Brussels on Tuesday. If the EU decides to postpone enlargement, said Mr Lachnit, then the economies of these countries will of course be far from reaching this level in 2006.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Thursday should see clear to partially cloudy skies. Temperatures should rise to a daytime high of 25 degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night on Thursday should drop to a minimum of four degrees Celsius, and Friday should see similar weather and temperatures to Thursday.
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