The Czech Agriculture Ministry has confirmed the discovery of the country's second case of BSE, or mad cow disease, but says further tests will be carried out for a definite result. A first round of tests has confirmed the presence of BSE in a privately-owned herd not far from the town of Zdar nad Sazavou in Southern Moravia. Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl announced the discovery of the case at a press conference on Wednesday, and told journalists that a second round of tests is underway, the results of which will be known on Saturday. The minister announced that for the moment, three cows of the herd are to be destroyed, and further action will be taken depending on the result of the second test. The Czech Republic's first case of mad cow disease was discovered in June, and was the first case outside Western Europe. Most countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe immediately banned beef imports from the Czech Republic. The Czech Agrarian Chamber warned on Wednesday that this latest case will further reduce beef consumption in the country.
The Czech government has approved the possible reintroduction of immigration controls by the British government at Prague's Ruzyne airport. Immigration officials were first installed at the airport in July to try to reduce the number of Czech nationals seeking political asylum in the UK. As the overwhelming majority of these asylum seekers are from the Czech Republic's Roma minority, Roma representatives and human rights organisations described the measures as racist and discriminatory. The controls were removed at the beginning of August, with the provision that they could be reintroduced if the number of Czech asylum seekers increased once more. On Wednesday, the Cabinet passed a resolution allowing the reintroduction of the controls, and both Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan stated that it is up to the British government whether or not to reintroduce them. The International Roma Union has criticised the move, saying it will pressure the Czech government to change its mind.
Czech President Vaclav Havel has welcomed the decision by NATO to send troops to Macedonia to help implement a recently brokered peace deal. The ambassadors of the Alliance's 19 member countries voted unanimously on Wednesday to send a force totalling 3,500 troops to Macedonia, where ethnic Albanians began an uprising against the Slav majority in March. The force, which will include some 120 Czech soldiers, will be in place in Macedonia for 30 days, and will help disarm rebels and implement the peace deal. President Havel said on Wednesday that NATO has learned from its past mistakes in the Balkans, and has moved quickly to resolve the Macedonian conflict.
Despite increasing exports, the Czech Republic's trade deficit more than tripled in July to 19 billion Czech crowns. According to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office on Wednesday, the trade deficit grew from the relatively positive figure of 6 billion Czech crowns in June, to 19 billion, or some 500 million US dollars in July, despite a 14 percent increase in exports. The figures are far above market forecasts, and the increase has been attributed primarily to the recession in Germany. Some analysts have warned that the balance of trade will continue to suffer in the second half of the year, again due to economic conditions in Germany.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Thursday in the Czech Republic should see partially cloudy to overcast skies, with occasional rain showers expected in places. Daytime highs could reach up to 27 degrees Celsius. The weather over the weekend is set to improve, with partially cloudy skies and temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius.
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