The Czech Republic has received an encouraging progress report from the European Commission. It appeared on a list of ten "most advanced" candidate countries which Brussels says stand a very good chance of gaining EU entry in a big bang expansion in the year 2004. The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia , Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania , Cyprus and Malta were described as "functioning market economies" which, assuming they made sustained progress, would be ready to face competition on the EU market within one to two years. The EC, the EU's executive body, said that within this first group of hopefuls there were considerable differences in the degree of economic preparedness and that future progress would decide how many countries could be admitted in the first wave of expansion. The EU budget is allegedly prepared to bear the cost of a "big bang" expansion of approximately ten states and each country will be judged strictly according to its merits.
The Czech Republic's progress report, which is over 100 pages long, describes the country as a functioning market economy with stable economic growth and a highly qualified work force. Macro-economic stability is said to have improved over the past twelve months although it is still endangered by a growing external and fiscal imbalance. Privatization progress, judicial reforms and efforts to clean up banks of bad loans are all deemed encouraging. The report is critical with regard to the growing public finance and current account deficit, the level of corruption and continuing discrimination against minorities, in particular against the Roma minority. It says that while efforts to improve the environment have proved successful, the legislature in this sphere still leaves much to be desired.
The Czech Foreign Ministry described the EC's report as "balanced and objective" and said that the Cabinet would make an all out effort to tackle the problems outlined. The Prime Minister Milos Zeman said he was particularly pleased that the country was now regarded as a functioning market economy and that it was seen to have made significant progress in privatization. Meanwhile, in an interview for the BBC, Senator Josef Zieleniec expressed the view that the opposition agreement between the Civic and Social Democrats had contributed to the Czech Republic's problems with corruption. "The power sharing pact has given many people the impression that all things are possible" the Senator said.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said it was essential that terrorism should be fought on all fronts not just in Afghanistan. Mr. Kavan stressed that in order for the war against terrorism to succeed individual governments must take effective measures to crack down on organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering. The Czech Foreign Minister reiterated his country's commitment to the war against terrorism and said that it must be brought to a successful conclusion. It is not possible to negotiate with terrorists or stop half way, the Czech foreign minister said. He further expressed the view that the UN should become more involved in helping to find solutions to regional problems in Africa and central Asia.
Vladimir Zelezny, the General Director of the Czech Republic's most successful private TV station Nova, who has been charged with attempting to cheat a creditor was taken into custody on Tuesday and spent the night in jail. Mr. Zelezny, who is embroiled in a legal dispute with the American firm CME, the company which helped to set up TV Nova in the 1990s and was later sidelined, spent Tuesday at a Prague police station answering questions in connection with earlier charges that he had cheated a creditor. The charges were re-qualified on Tuesday to "an attempt to cheat a creditor" but despite the fact that these are lighter charges, the chief investigator has asked the state attorney to remand the media mogul in custody for fear that he might influence witnesses. Last week police raided TV Nova's offices confiscating computer files and documents and charged Zelezny's lawyer and close associate Ales Rozehnal with fraud. If found guilty both of the accused could receive a jail sentence of up to eight years.
The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman on Tuesday visited the Liberec army base of the Czech chemical detection unit which is to take an active part in the war against terrorism . The Prime Minister, who was accompanied by Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and the US ambassador to the Czech Republic Mr. Craig Stapleton, told newsmen the Czech Cabinet had been informed about the time and place of deployment but said the information would not be made public.
We're in for a cold night with temperatures dropping to as low as minus 5 degs C and possibly some scattered snow showers. Wednesday is expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with sleet or snow showers and day temps between 0 and 4 degs C.
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