The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said during his one-day visit to Prague that an age old dispute with the neighbouring Czech Republic, which is to join the European Union next May, should be laid to rest. Mr Schroeder said that the 1997 Czech-German Declaration - which binds the two countries not to burden bilateral relations with controversies from the past - was a good basis for building future relations. Tensions between the two states have simmered for nearly 60 years since the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II, authorised by the so-called Benes decrees. The European Union Parliament has ruled the decrees are not a barrier to the Czech Republic joining the bloc. In March 2002, Chancellor Schroeder abruptly scrapped a planned visit to the Czech Republic after then Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman likened Sudeten Germans to "Hitler's fifth column".
Several dozen Czech and German activists demonstrated in Prague on Friday in protest of the closure of a Sorb-language primary school in the village of Chroscice in the German state of Saxony. The Saxonian region of Lusatia is inhabited by the dwindling Slavic-speaking minority of Sorbs. Leos Satava, the head of the Friends of Lusatia Association, said that Chroscice is a symbol of Lusatia's problems. He also said that assimilation of this ethnic minority still continued. Only over 50 children entered Sorb-language schools this year. The demonstrators used the one-day visit of the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to voice their protest and hand a petition to the German embassy and the Office of the Czech Government in Prague.
Social Democrat deputy chairwoman and Health Minister Marie Souckova failed to gain the support of her party for her proposals for direct payments by patients in doctors' surgeries and hospitals. Minister Souckova proposed earlier that people should pay 50 crowns per visit to a general practitioner and an additional 20 crowns per prescription. A visit to a specialist without the general practitioner's recommendation should according to Ms Souckova's reform proposal cost 100 crowns. The Social Democrat Party say the proposal goes against the party's principles.
The Czech central bank Ceska narodni banka said on Friday it would harmonise interest payments on all accounts commercial banks hold at the bank after a change in some rules for creating minimum reserves takes effect on November 6th. Banks' cash accounts at Ceska narodni banka bear interest 0.5 percent but after the change, the central bank will start paying interest equal to the two-week repo rate which has stood at an all-time low of 2 percent. Ceska narodni banka said the cash accounts would also be newly taken into account for calculating the banks' minimum reserve requirements, along with the bank's clearing accounts.
Friday night should be cold with temperature dropping to 6-7 degrees Celsius. Saturday is expected to be partly cloudy with daytime temperatures between 22-24 degrees Celsius. Sunday should be overcast and rainy with temperatures at 18-22 degrees Celsius.
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