Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel and Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber have called for the annulment of the Benes Decrees by the time the Czech Republic joins the European Union. The Benes Decrees were issued just after WWII and the led to the expulsion of up to three million ethnic Germans, the Sudeten Germans, from Czechoslovakia. Schussel and Stoiber's statements came at the annual Sudeten German conference in Augsburg in Germany over the weekend. Mr Stoiber told participants that the decrees were in violation of international law and that the Czech Republic should voluntarily annul them. Sudeten German association chairman Bernd Posselt said at the conference that the question of returning property seized from the Sudeten Germans remains open and that he would urge the German government and the EU to pressure the Czech Republic into addressing the issue.
Officials in Salzburg in Austria want to begin legal proceedings to prevent the Temelin nuclear power plant in Southern Bohemia going on-line. The regional council's environment spokesman, Othmar Raus announced on Saturday that Salzburg wants to take action because the people feel that Temelin poses a threat to Austria's environmental safety. Mr Raus referred to the frequent shutdowns at Temelin as proof that these fears are justified. Temelin was last put off-line on Wednesday after a leak of radioactive water in the plant's reactor. Representatives of CEZ, the electricity utility in charge of Temelin, say that the water was safely contained within the reactor, but this incident has brought forth fresh protests from anti-nuclear activists.
Prime Minister Milos Zeman claims that objections by the main opposition party to next year's state budget could breach the agreement between the two parties. The Civic Democrats keep the government in power through a controversial agreement, called the opposition agreement. In return for supporting the minority Social Democrats on key issues, the Civic Democrats are included in talks on issues such as the state budget. The government has ordered the Finance Ministry to put together a budget with a deficit of ten billion Czech crowns, which Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus has publicly said is unacceptable. The prime minister reacted by saying that in the two parties' agreement the budget deficit is set at ten billion, and that the Civic Democrats are obliged to support, otherwise they would breach the agreement.
The Czech Republic has been defeated 2-1 by Denmark in its latest World Cup qualifying match in Copenhagen. This result has knocked the Czechs from being at the top of their qualifying group to third place with 11 points, one behind Denmark, and two behind Bulgaria. The Czechs still have four games left to play, but this result comes as a blow to the team's chances of playing in the 2002 World Cup.
EU citizens will be unable to buy agricultural land in the Czech Republic for up to seven years, and flats and houses for up to five years, following the enlargement of the European Union. Prague and Brussels agreed on the transition period on Friday, closing the chapter on the free movement of capital. Under current Czech law foreigners are barred from buying property as private citizens, although foreign companies and businesses registered in the Czech Republic are exempt from the ban.
Meanwhile the Czech Republic has rejected a compromise solution on the free movement of labour, proposed by Brussels on Friday. The EU had proposed that the Czech Republic and other candidates for membership accept transition periods of between two and seven years, during which time their citizens would be unable to work freely in the EU. The Czech Republic's chief negotiator with the EU, Pavel Telicka, rejected the offer, saying his country had a number of reservations. Germany and Austria have insisted on transition periods on the free movement of labour, one of the Union's fundamental freedoms, to protect their labour markets.
Czech opposition leader Vaclav Klaus, who heads the centre-right Civic Democrats, says that the plan for a common European defence policy is intended to put a wedge between the EU and the USA. Mr Klaus' comments came during talks in Prague with a delegation of ten US Congressmen. Mr Klaus told journalists after the meeting that his comments had come as no surprise to the Congressmen. Mr Klaus expressed his dismay at the prospect of the creation of these forces and that he and his party have warned the Czech Republic's European partners over the issue several times.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Tuesday should be another chilly day in the Czech Republic, with overcast skies and scattered showers in places. Daytime highs should reach 17 degrees Celsius. Night-time lows on Monday should drop to 4 degrees Celsius. The weather should get warmer later in the week, with maximum daytime temperatures rising to 22 degrees Celsius by Thursday.
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