EU expansion talks
The European Union on Tuesday launched a new stage of its eastwards expansion, opening detailed negotiations with the six front-running candidates. The first round of negotiations, which follow several months of scrutiny , will cover seven areas where the candidates expect little difficulty in adapting to EU requirements. Talks on more controversial issues, such as agricultural policy will start later. In its report on the start of detailed negotiations the London-based investment bank Flemings predicted that the first wave of admissions would take place in the year 2003, the second no earlier than 2010.
Foreign minister Jan Kavan has rejected calls for his resignation after going public with information which had allegedly been classified secret by the country's intelligence service BIS. Kavan, who stated that a terrorist from an Islamic country had recently visited the Czech Republic to gather information about Radio Free Europe broadcasts to Iran and Iraq, said that his information had come from a private source and that he had no knowledge the BIS was on the case. I had no knowledge of a secret file so I don't see how that can be regarded as breaking the law, Kavan told newsmen. The matter is to be debated at today's cabinet session as well as a meeting of the foreign affairs committee in parliament.
Belgium officials have expressed concern over the growing number of Czech and Slovak asylum seekers most of whom are of Romany origin. According to the ctk report the situation is made worse by the current wave of refugees from Kosovo which Belgium is having to deal with . While in the first six months of this year Belgium had only 7 requests for asylum from Czech citizens, in August there were 39 requests and in September 62. Czech Romanies have been warned that due to the wave of Kosovo refugees, Belgium's asylum facilities are bursting at the seams and conditions are far from adequate.
During talks on NATO expansion in Brussels on Tuesday Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan and his British counterpart Robin Cook agreed that political considerations should not be allowed to override the country's preparedness to meet NATO requirements. Recently NATO officials have debated the possibility of bringing the admission date forward if the ratification process should end ahead of schedule, but as Jan Kavan pointed out the necessary changes in the military have been phased out so as to be concluded by April of next year - the original admission date.
On the final day of his visit to the Czech Republic Romanian foreign minister Andrei Plesu was received by President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle. European integration topped the agenda, as the Czech head of state once more reiterated his country's support for Romanian admission to the Union in the second wave of expansion. Another issue discussed during the visit was the possibility of the Czech Republic introducing visa requirements for Romanian citizens. According to foreign minister Jan Kavan this is not an immediate concern, although it cannot be ruled out long term.
Josef Radimecky, the new head of the government's anti-drugs commission has been welcomed as "the right man for the job". The founder of Drop in centres on Czech territory, Jiri Presl, said Radimecky had years of practice in working with addicts and he knew the problems inside out. Radimecky replaces Pavel Bem, who resigned on the grounds that he could not work well with a social democrat government.
Finally, a look at the weather : we can expect more of the same, which means overcast skies and smog as far as the Czech capital is concerned. Day temps between 4 and 8 degs C. Nighttime lows between 5 and 1 degs.
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