On Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and the US ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapelton visited the training base of the 6th rapid deployment unit in Hamry near the North Moravian town of Prostejov. The Czech government has offered the unit's services to NATO for its global fight against terrorism. Prime Minister Zeman told journalists in Prostejov that his government had recently agreed to eight support measures presented by the US to its NATO allies. These new measures will ensure NATO support in a US retaliation against terrorists. The agreement includes a pledge that the Czech S-FOR contingent in Bosnia be prolonged, in case American units need to be deployed elsewhere, in their fight against terrorism.
During his current visit to Denmark, the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists that the Czech Republic was prepared to provide humanitarian aid to Pakistan. Mr. Kavan said it was necessary to help Pakistan, otherwise the country could soon become destabilized, due to the on-going influx of Afghan refugees. After talks with his Danish counterpart Mogense Lykketoft, the Czech Foreign Minister expressed his appreciation of Denmark's support for the Czech Republic on its way to the European Union. Mr. Lykketoft hopes that in the year 2004, the Czech Republic will be able to take part in the elections to the European parliament.
The Czech Ministry of the Interior announced that, over the past couple days, it has not registered any increase in the number of refugees immigrating to the Czech Republic from Afghanistan. The number of refugees from other countries, in light of likely US retaliation, has not significantly increased either. There are however 53 Afghani asylum seekers presently living in the Czech Republic and when asked for their whereabouts the Ministry spokesperson, Mr. Rushka, would not disclose any details for fear of their safety.
On Thursday the Czech Senate hosted a public hearing on xenophobia, neo-Nazism and other forms of extremism. At the hearing the Government's Commissioner for Human Rights, Jan Jarab, told Czech senators and guests that Czech Neo-Nazi violence has claimed the lives of at least 20 people since the year 1990. Mr. Jarab added that the police and courts did not pay enough attention to these cases and often even turned a blind eye to extremist activities. Mr. Jarab followed by saying that harsher sentences are required to punish and deter neo-Nazi activities, for at present many court verdicts regarding racially motivated crimes are too mild. The Czech Republic has over six thousand supporters of the skinhead movement.
President Vaclav Havel turns 65 on Friday. A playwright and former dissident became the president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989, and will remain in office till 2003. Part of the celebration is handing over a prize of the Vision 97 Foundation which is administered by the presidential couple. This year, the prize will go to biologist and philosopher Zdenek Neubauer. The Vision 97 Foundation awards its prize annually to people who had made a substantial contribution to the understanding of science as an inseparable part of general culture. President Havel will then celebrate his 65th birthday with his close relatives and friends.
The Czech Republic's impending accession to the EU has raised the issue of mass labour movement from the Czech Republic to EU countries. Recently a survey carried out by the West Bohemian University revealed that one fifth of Czech citizens of working status living in the West Bohemian region of Karlovy Vary plan to seek jobs in Western countries - mainly Germany. Nearly 800 people were polled and those who responded said their main reason for working abroad was to improve their standard of living, to save money and to gain better language skills.
And finally a quick look at the weather: we expect mist on Friday morning, and cloudy skies later in the day. Daytime highs should be between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius.
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