The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, or the so-called Visegrad countries, have agreed that the EU Constitution ratification process should continue, even after French and Dutch voters rejected it, the Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said on Friday at a Visegrad Group summit in Poland, which has been dominated by EU integration. Referring to next week's EU summit, the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said the Czech Republic was waiting for a signal from the European Council, which would have an important effect on the ratification process in the Czech Republic. The prime ministers also agreed they wanted EU member states to agree on the European Union's budget for 2007-2013 at next week's summit in Brussels. Radio Prague's Martina Lustigova reports from the Visegrad summit.
"The prime ministers talked also about the growth of the budget of the Visegrad Fund. Currently, the budget is 3 million euros and in the future each country should pay 50,000 euros more. The Visegrad Fund should concentrate on new projects. Currently the fund supports mainly cultural activities, cooperation of schools, a number of festivals or translations of books. In the future, the Visegrad Fund should also help other countries, for example, last year the Visegrad Fund sent its observers to Ukraine for the elections."
The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda's return from an official trip to Montenegro was delayed by an hour due to a defect on his plane. The door of the Soviet-made Antonov-26 would not shut and a device controlling air-pressure onboard was out of order, Minister Svoboda told the CTK news agency. However both defects were quickly repaired. Mr Svoboda had arrived in Serbia and Montenegro on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Balkans, including the status of the Kosovo province.
The number of foreigners living in the Czech Republic has been rising markedly in recent years. Some 250,000 foreign nationals stayed legally in the country at the end of last year, including nearly 100,000 foreigners with a permanent residence permit, the Interior Ministry announced on Friday. According to the ministry's asylum and migration policy department the number of foreigners rose by almost 19,000 last year compared to 2003. According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Czech Republic has become a country with the steepest increase in the number of foreigners in the world between 1992 and 2002.
The US Embassy in Prague has confirmed that a new location for the headquarters of the US-funded radio station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been found in Prague. In an interview for the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said the station's management had chosen a new location but it was up to them when they would make it public. Currently, the station is located in the centre of Prague. Relocation for security reasons has been planned since the events of September 11, 2001.
Tuesday June 14th will be tax freedom day in the Czech Republic, two days earlier than in 2004, the Liberal Institute think tank announced on Friday. According to Liberal Institute President, Jiri Schwarz, since 2000 tax freedom day has moved eight days forward, which means Czechs spend more time earning for the state. Some economists argue taxes in the Czech Republic are too high, making life difficult for businessmen and contributing to high unemployment.
The partly cloudy weather should continue over the weekend, with occasional rain and daytime temperatures reaching highs of 20 degrees Celsius.
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