Prime Minister Zeman receives Spanish boost for Czech EU bid

07-03-2001

Prime Minister Milos Zeman ended a three-day visit to Spain on Wednesday, the third in a series of official visits to European Union countries at a crucial time for his country's bid to join the EU. In February he visited Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and shortly afterwards he boarded a plane for Belgium, which will take over in the second half of this year.

Spain picks up the presidency of the European Union in the first six months of next year, when negotiations for Czech EU membership could be completed. The head of Radio Prague's Spanish section, , was among the journalists who accompanied Prime Minister Zeman to Spain.

Mr Aznar said he wants the Czech Republic to become part of the European Union as soon as possible, and that he is pleased that the decision to expand the EU was taken in Madrid. But he stressed that essential internal EU reform must not stand in the way of expansion. He said two things must be done: first the EU has to reform its institutions, as decided at the EU Nice Summit in December, and the Czech Republic must continue with economic and legal reforms.

While negotiations for Czech EU membership were top priority during Prime Minister Zeman's three-day visit to Spain, mutual trade and investment were also on the agenda. The Spanish Prime Minister said that despite reasonable levels of trade between the two countries, there was room for improvement.

"Trade relations between our two countries amount to more than one million dollars, but it could be higher," Mr Aznar told Radio Prague. He added that in the past relations between Spain and the Czech Republic had not been close, but in the past few years, the two countries had established stronger ties. He noted that trade relations have greatly increased and stressed that the Spanish have a great interest in investing in the Czech Republic. "We are well aware that the Czech Republic should be - and in many ways already is - our most important business partner in Central Europe," he concluded.

07-03-2001