Czechs pledge 1,000 troops for new EU rapid reaction force
The Czech Republic has pledged 1,000 troops for a new European Union rapid reaction force. The Czech Defence Minister, Vladimir Vetchy, praised the fact that his country would be sharing in the EU's joint defence policy. Mr Vetchy was speaking in Brussels, where defence ministers of 15 European countries which do not belong to the EU announced they wanted to join the force. The Czech Republic is one of only three of the 15 which are members of NATO but not the EU. Meeting one day after EU countries pledged troops, ships and aircraft to the new force, the ministers of the 15 non-EU states informed their counterparts how many men and resources they might commit. The European Union says it wants to be able to field a force of up to 60,000 ground troops within 60 days and maintain it on mission for one year.
A new poll by the IVVM agency shows the Four-Party Coalition, which triumphed in recent Senate and regional elections, would emerge as the single largest party if a general election were held tomorrow. The poll put the Four-Party Coalition, made up of four right-of-centre opposition parties, in first place on 25 percent. The ruling Social Democrats, who suffered a resounding defeat in both recent elections, came second with 22 percent. Their parliamentary allies, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, emerged in third place with 21 percent, and the Communist Party, which did well in new regional elections, would take 16 percent if elections to the lower house were held tomorrow. And there was encouraging news for political analysts: IVVM said some 63 percent of respondents said they would vote in a general election, compared to the 25 percent who voted in the recent Senate and regional elections.
The Czech Republic has banned imports of all French and Portuguese beef products as protection against BSE, or mad cow disease. The ban is effective immediately, health officials said on Tuesday. The country imports very little meat from the European Union for human consumption, but has imported bone meal for pork and poultry feed. A spokesman for the Czech Veterinary Authority said bone meal had never been fed to Czech cattle, adding that Czechs had nothing to fear from the imports to date. A similar ban on beef from Britain and Switzerland has been in place since 1994. The spokesman said there had been no cases of mad cow disease recorded in the Czech Republic, partly due to the fact that the country couldn't afford to import much bone meal. Scientists say consumption of BSE-infected meat is the likely cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of BSE.
The Czech President Vaclav Havel is to appoint the new Governor of the Czech National Bank at the beginning of next week. Mr Havel announced on Monday that he had finished consultations with banking experts on his choice. Mr Havel will meet the outgoing governor Josef Tosovsky on Wednesday to discuss the choice of his successor. According to current Czech legislation, the governor and board of the central bank are appointed for a period of six years by the President. However a new draft law, vetoed by Mr Havel, requires nominations for the post to come from the government. The recent defeat of the ruling party in the Senate elections have placed the future of the law into doubt.
Police in the North Moravian district of Sumperk have called off their search for the convicted murderer Jiri Kajinek, who escaped from a maximum security prison three weeks ago. Kajinek, dubbed the most dangerous man in the country, escaped from Mirov Prison at the end of October. Hundreds of police officers have spent the last three weeks searching in vain for the escaped prisoner, who had a mobile telephone smuggled into his cell to help him escape. A police spokesman said tightened security on the Czech border would continue until Kajinek was found, and Interpol has also joined the search.
And the three-time Olympic gold medallist Jan Zelezny, the world record holder in the javelin, has been voted Czech Athlete of the Year for the sixth time. Zelezny triumphed over injury problems to broke his own Olympic record at the Sydney Olympics this year. He was also recently elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee.
And finally a look at the weather. After a foggy start, Thursday will be a mostly clear day with temperatures reaching 11 degrees in the daytime, falling to lows of one degree at night.
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