The Czech Republic has closed the free movement of labour chapter in its accession talks with the European Union in Brussels, the Czech chief EU negotiator Pavel Telicka announced on Friday. The Czech Republic has agreed on a provision enabling EU countries to flexibly limit the number of Czechs seeking work in the union within the first two years, but at the same time it has safeguarded better conditions for the protection of its own labour market. After the talks, Mr. Telicka said although this was not fully satisfactory, it was impossible to achieve better results. With another chapter on financial control completed on Friday, the Czech Republic has closed 21 out of 30 chapters necessary for its future EU membership.
The Czech Finance Ministry has lowered by six billion crowns the proposed deficit in its draft state budget for 2002. It took into consideration all the recommendations that had come from the Lower House, which last week returned the draft budget to the cabinet for revision. The new draft envisages revenues amounting to 705.2 billion crowns, and expenditures to 751.4 billion. The new draft budget will be discussed by the cabinet on Monday. It adds two billion crowns to universities, one billion to the regions and 1.5 billion to selected ministries to use the money for funding tightened security measures. The revenues will grow by the payment to the state of assets from the CSOB bank that bought the bankrupt IPB Bank last year. The cabinet is expected to submit the new draft as soon as possible, so that the parliament can approve it before the Czech Republic is forced to start working under a provisional budget.
The Czech Minister of the Interior, Stanislav Gross, confirmed on Friday that Muhammad Atta, suspected of involvement in the suicidal attack on World Trade Centre on September 11th, met an Iraqi diplomat in Prague just a few weeks before the diplomat was expelled from the Czech Republic. Minister Gross confirmed that the diplomat, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir, worked as an officer for the Iraqi intelligence service. According to Mr. Gross, Atta was also in the Czech Republic in May 2000. He arrived by coach from Germany and the next day flew to the United States. His other possible stays here are being investigated, minister Gross told journalists. Meanwhile, the US administration has asked the Czech Republic to vet pilots who fly to America.
The upper house of the Czech parliament- the Senate - approved a law on Friday on granting guarantees to Czech airline companies amounting up to 18.5 billion crowns - or approximately half a billion dollars. The law had been submitted by the government in reaction to the decision of insurance companies which have cancelled their insurance contracts with airline companies in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. The Senate met the government's requirement by passing the law in a shortened vote unanimously.
Czech president Vaclav Havel's fever abated as he continued taking antibiotics to treat an attack of chronic bronchitis. Mr. Havel's personal physician Ilja Kotik said on Friday that in the last 24 hour the president had been without a temperature. President Havel was admitted to hospital on Tuesday suffering from chronic bronchitis probably caused by a viral infection. Doctors say they want to be sure the new antibiotics are effective before releasing him from hospital. Mr. Havel's office, however, said his improvement confirms that the president will participate in an evening ceremony on Sunday which is a national holiday, commemorating the founding of Czechoslovakia.
And finally a brief look at the weather: we expect a wet and misty weekend, with night time lows around 2 degrees Celsius and afternoon highs between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius.
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