Members of the European Parliament from the Czech Republic and Poland were among the strongest opponents of the planned European Constitution, when it was approved in the parliament by a large majority on Wednesday. MEPs from the Czech Republic's right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats and the left wing Communists all voted against the constitution, as did deputies from Poland's nationalist opposition. The vote has increased speculation that referenda to be held in the two countries may fail to ratify the constitution. Altogether around a fifth of MEPs voted against the document.
Preparations are under way to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland at the end of January. Commemorative ceremonies will be attended by Holocaust survivors and public figures from across the world. The United Nations General Assembly is to hold a special session this month to mark the anniversary.
The foreign ministers of Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, along with Austria and Slovenia have voiced concern over human rights in Belarus. The Polish Foreign Minister, Adam Rotfeld, said that the situation in the country was of concern for Poland as a neighbour, but also for the European Union as a whole. At a meeting in Warsaw the six ministers also signed a communiqué expressing concern at the jailing of the former Belarus Foreign Trade Minister Mikhail Marinich.
The Czech government has approved a proposal to extend the mission of around 100 military police in Iraq to the end of this year. They were scheduled to return home at the end of February. The proposal is widely expect to be confirmed by parliament, and President Vaclav Klaus has also said that he supports the extension. The Czech military police contingent is helping to train local Iraqi police in the south of the country.
NATO military experts are looking into ways of transporting 77 used tanks offered by Hungary to help build up the new Iraqi armed forces. The news agency AFP quotes an unnamed NATO official as saying that Iraqi and NATO representatives will be visiting Hungary shortly to assess the feasibility of transporting the tanks.
A Vatican statement that the Pope is not planning to visit Poland in 2005 has led to huge disappointment in the country. Originally there had been indications that the Pope would be visiting in June. The statement points out that 2005 is 'an election year' in Poland, implying that there were fears that the visit could clash with a possible election date, or that it could influence the outcome.
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