The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has written a letter to his Austrian counterpart, Tomas Klestil, protesting at statements made by an Austrian Sudeten German organisation. The Austrian Sudeten German Landsmannschaft said it was "surprised" by the recent passing of a Czech law honouring President Edvard Benes, under whom Czechoslovakia's German minority were expelled after World War II. The Sudeten Germans said Mr Benes had brought servitude and 40 years of communism to the Czech nation. In his letter to Mr Klestil, President Klaus said he could not believe the Sudetens' comments.
Speaking after a meeting in Prague with his Czech counterpart, Cyril Svoboda, the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said he hoped an agreement could be reached on the European Union's first constitution by June, when Ireland's presidency comes to an end. For his part, Mr Svoboda said that the constitution should be acceptable to everybody so it would be ratified in all member states. The two foreign ministers also attended the official opening of a Czech-German school on Friday, saying it was a good example of the building of mutual relations between their two countries.
After forwarding companies and customs agents stopped clearing trucks at Czech border crossings on Friday morning, a truck-drivers organisation has warned of possible unpleasant scenes. Thousands of trucks are waiting in long lines at six border crossings with Germany and two with Slovakia, as forwarding companies and customs agents strike in protest at the government's unwillingness to discuss compensation for companies which will have to lay workers off after the Czech Republic joins the European Union. The forwarding companies have not said when their protest will end. On Friday morning the Labour Ministry unveiled a plan to provide retraining for redundant forwarders.
Two Czechs caught trying to smuggle rare orchids out of New Zealand have been released after paying fines of almost 150 thousand Czech crowns. Cestmir Cihalik, the dean of Olomouc University's medical faculty and Jindrich Smitak, a former environmental inspector, were carrying almost 130 orchids between them when they were arrested in January. The two men are now on their way back to the Czech Republic, a spokesperson for the Czech consulate in Sydney, Australia said on Friday.
A 48-hour strike of the Czech Republic's train drivers due to begin on March 1 has been called off, after unions reached an agreement with Czech Rail on Friday. The national rail carrier gave in to union demands to change the pay conditions of some drivers from the beginning of next month, a union spokesman told reporters, adding that many other issues remained to be discussed with Czech Rail's management.
Saturday is expected to be partly cloudy, with snow or snow showers in places. The maximum temperature should be 4 degrees Celsius.
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