On a one day visit to the Czech Republic, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel warned Czechs against rejecting the EU Constitution in a national referendum. He said such a move would harm the small and medium sized members of the EU and would be a major step back for Europe. His Czech counterpart Stanislav Gross agreed that putting the Constitution in question would be a big mistake which would isolate the Czech Republic from the EU mainstream. Czech politicians are divided over the EU Constitution. Although the Czech coalition government supports it, the country's main opposition party of right-wing Civic Democrats as well as President Klaus are opposed to it.
During talks with the Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, the Austrian Chancellor also said his country would welcome a gesture of reconciliation from the Czech government towards the ethnic German minority which was expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII. Mr. Schuessel said his country was still learning from the painful experience of the war and that it would value a similar approach from the Czech Republic. Not all members of the German ethnic minority were necessarily guilty, and it would be fair to recognize that, the Chancellor said. The Czech Prime Minister failed to respond to the appeal. The expulsion of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans after the war remains a sensitive issue on both sides of the border.
Parliament's Committee for Foreign Affairs has criticized the government for allegedly giving too little humanitarian aid to developing countries and tsunami devastated south-east Asia. The head of the committee Vladimir Lastuvka said that the sums earmarked for humanitarian aid did not correspond to the country's economic means. He did not specify how much higher the donations should be. The Czech Republic contributed 700 million crowns to the EU Development Fund last year. In the wake of the tsunami disaster the government earmarked 15 million crowns for humanitarian aid and another 200 million for reconstruction. Czechs have collected over 269 million crowns in public donations.
An Olomouc regional court has rehabilitated former counter intelligence agent Vladimir Hucin clearing him of charges of illegal possession of weapons that he was to have committed almost thirty years ago. The judge ruled that since the weapons in his possession were not fully functional Hucin did not commit any crime. Hucin said he was satisfied with the verdict but described it as a Pyrrhic victory. In 1977 Hucin was convicted to nine months in prison by the communist authorities for allegedly collecting weapons and explosives to be used against the regime. He denied the allegations.
The Finance Ministry has warned that high state budget deficits could in future cut the Czech Republic off from some EU funds. The European Commission has proposed that only countries with state budget deficits lower than 3.0 percent of GDP should be allowed to draw money from the Cohesion Fund as of 2007. The Czech Republic plans to meet the criteria of the convergence programme in 2008 and could thus find itself cut off from this fund for some time. This would not affect the money flow from the EU's structural funds. Last year the Czech state budget deficit reached an estimated 4.0 to 4.5 percent of GDP. The government is taking measures to reduce the gap in spending.
The Defence Ministry has definitely turned down an appeal from a Czech transsexual to be allowed to serve in the army. Jaroslava Brokesova had applied for a job as a driver in the military and been turned down on the grounds that she had undergone a sex-change operation. She publicized her case and threatened to take the matter to court if the ministry refused to reconsider its decision. The medical commission has now said Brokesova could not be admitted for health reasons.
Friday should be partly cloudy to overcast with day temperatures between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius.
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