The European Union has banned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
and 30 ministers, prosecutors and regional election officials from
entering the 25-nation bloc. It took the decision to punish those they
say were involved in rigging Belarus's March 19 presidential polls and
a crackdown on opposition activists. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril
Svoboda was actively involved in the debate on what manner of sanctions
should be introduced, stressing that they should be diplomatic
sanctions which would not hurt the people of Belarus who are perceived
as victims of the Lukashenko regime. The Czech Foreign Ministry has
also announced plans to help Belarusian dissidents.
The European Union also decided to sever political contacts and temporarily suspend direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government on Monday to pressure it to recognise Israel, end violence and accept peace accords. But foreign ministers of the 25 member states, who met in Luxembourg, agreed to continue humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
The Czech financial daily Hospodarske Noviny has reported that in 2005 Czech companies acquired a record number of foreign firms outside the Czech Republic - a total of twenty-five - up from eight the previous year. The news is based on a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting. The largest Czech firm to acquire control in foreign companies last year was the energy giant CEZ, investing largely in the Balkans, followed by Zentiva pharmaceuticals, and Agrofert chemical group. The largest number of acquisitions came in neighbouring Slovakia. In total, Czech firms spent 700 million US dollars to buy into the foreign companies.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed a law on construction that will help facilitate and speed up numerous building projects in the Czech Republic. Current law requires that a building permit is obtained before a garage is built, a flat is renovated, or a family house (that does not exceed 150 square metres and three floors) is put up. As of January 1 2007, those planning to undertake such types of construction work will only have to put forward a notice.
Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek says plans are underway to limit imports of chicken from EU countries with confirmed cases of bird flu. Speaking to journalists on Monday, Mr Mladek said the Czech Republic expects to receive permission from the European Commission within the next month. The consumption of chicken has not dropped in the Czech Republic, despite several confirmed cases of bird flu. Suppliers of chicken meat in some EU countries, which are witnessing a decrease in consumption, have been selling their products in the Czech Republic at dumping prices. By limiting imports from abroad Mr Mladek hopes to aid local producers, who say their profits have suffered from the foreign competition's low prices.
An exhibition introducing the ELLA project - a transnational co-operation of nearly all regional spatial planning authorities in the Elbe basin - opened in three Czech towns on Monday. The ELLE project, which focuses on flood prevention and integrated water management is financed by the European Union and involves cooperation between over twenty institutions. It was launched shortly after the devastating floods of 2002. The exhibition is currently on show in Ceske Budejovice, Pardubice, and Hradec Kralove. It will travel to Pilsen and Usti nad Labem next week.
The Defence Minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Zoran Stankovic, said on
Monday that the Army would not intervene in efforts to gain Montenegrin
or Kosovo independence. Speaking to his Czech counterpart Karel Kuhnl
during a visit to Prague, Mr Stankovic said there will be no repetition
of the 1990s, when the Yugoslav Army tried to hinder the Slovenes and
Croats from gaining independence. A vote on Montenegrin independence is
scheduled to take place on May 21 and there is ongoing discussion on
autonomy for the south Serbian province of Kosovo.
The two defence ministers also spoke about a possible EU military engagement in Kosovo and Serbia's efforts to help bring Ratko Mladic before the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague by the end of this month. Mr Mladic is the alleged architect of the murder of around 7,500 Muslims in the Bosnian silver-mining town Srebrenica in 1995.
Clean up work is underway in many parts of the Czech Republic following a
week of heavy flooding.
Water levels in the affected areas are continuing to drop and water
management has called off a state of emergency in the last two areas in
the Elbe (Labe) River basin. Of the thousands of people who were
evacuated, only 200 have yet to receive the green light to return to their
Though it rained around the country on Monday, water levels have not been affected. However, meteorologists expect the rain to continue throughout the first half of this week, enough to cause smaller rivers to swell.
The education and foreign ministries have proposed that the Czech Republic become a member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) by next year. In plans presented to the government, the Foreign Ministry states it has managed to collect six of the around 8 million euros needed to become a member of this prestigious intergovernmental organisation for astronomical research. The ESO which has its headquarters in Germany's Garching and operates observatories in Chile, currently has eleven member countries.
Two more cases of bird flu have been detected in the Czech Republic, bringing the overall number to ten. All of the infected birds are swans found in the vicinity of Ceske Budejovice, in southern Bohemia. The last two cases were found on the bank of the Vltava river, close to where one of the previous infected birds was discovered. Protective measures are already in effect in the area. They include a ban on the transport of birds, poultry products and eggs, the use of disinfectants and a ban on outdoor breeding.
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