The European Commission has released an important annual progress report on EU candidate countries, including the Czech Republic, rating ten countries' preparation for EU expansion in 2004, and two countries' preparation for accession in 2007. A thirteenth country, Turkey, was also evaluated, but has not yet been given the green light for accession talks to begin. Overall, in the progress report, the Czech Republic received a positive evaluation and praise for economic stability and reforms in the civil and judicial sectors, although there was serious criticism of corruption, economy-based crime, and discrimination against the Roma population. Wednesday the EU executive announced that member states should now wrap-up accession talks with the Czech Republic and nine other candidate countries in December, to pave the way for EU accession in 2004.
The British deputy interior minister Beverley Hughes has revealed that new measures by British customs officials, aimed at reducing the chance of abuse of the asylum system, will reduce the likeliness of Great Britain reinstating mandatory visas for Czechs travelling to Britain. Mrs Hughes added that random checks of travellers at Prague's Ruzyne airport would continue. Mandatory visas have been applied by Great Britain to curb the flow of asylum seekers, many of them from the Roma community, in neighbouring Slovakia. However, it appears unlikely such measures would be taken in the case of the Czech Republic. British Interior Minister David Blunkett has recommended that ten EUcandidate countries, including the Czech Republic, be given 'safe' status, which would make it impossible for citizens from those countries to apply for political asylum.
President Vaclav Havel has visited and spoken at the Czech lower house for perhaps the last time as the head of state. Mr Havel spoke on Wednesday in anticipation of the release of the European Commission's annual progress report, repeated his overall support for European integration, and praised the deputies in parliament for their recent approval of a referendum bill on EU accession.
After two and a half months police have concluded their investigation of former Foreign Ministry official, Karel Srba, and three others, who allegedly plotted to murder a Czech journalist. All four are being held in prison without bail as they await trial. The plot, which was unravelled in July, allegedly planned for the murder of journalist Sabina Slonkova in response to articles she had written connecting Mr Srba with corruption and suspicious business deals.
A 32-year-old Czech man was arrested in the south Austrian town of Hollabrunn on Tuesday for trying to sell dozens of illegally-held poisonous snakes, as well as a variety of lizards, at a local parking lot. However, customs officials moved in before the man could sell a single specimen. After the man's arrest the smuggled animals, which included poisonous cobras and vipers, were transferred to a public terrarium in Vienna.
Wednesday evening will see mostly cloudy skies with a chance of light showers and fog in places. Night-time temperatures are expected to drop to lows between 6 and 2 degrees Celsius. Thursday will be partly cloudy with day-time temperatures reaching highs between just 9 and 13 degrees Celsius.
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