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Eastern, central European leaders talk EU enlargement, Balkan stability

The leaders of 16 eastern and central European countries met in Romania's Black Sea resort of Mamaia on Thursday at the start of a two-day summit on the impact of EU enlargement and Balkan stability. The Mamaia summit is the 11th such gathering since Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic agreed in 1993 to launch a debate on closer ties between the European Union and former Eastern bloc countries. It comes less than a month after their initiative culminated in the May 1 accession of 10 new members to the EU, including eight former members of the Soviet bloc. The second day of the summit is expected to focus on economic and social stability as well as security in the Balkans.

EC: Agreement with Czechs on cow slaughtering only preliminary

The talks between the European Commission and the Czech Republic, which resulted in Brussels' tacit approval of the use of milk from the herd in which a BSE- infected cow is found, were only preliminary and did not produce any formal agreement, the European Commission said on Thursday. It stressed that a possible change in the procedures for slaughtering of animals that might have contracted mad cow disease first has to be proposed by the European Commission College and then approved by member states. On Tuesday the Agriculture Ministry announced that Czech farmers who own an infected cow will not have to kill all animals of the same age in the herd. Instead, the cows will continue to produce milk and will be put down gradually.

Slovak police find explosives near NATO venue

Slovak police say they found two bags filled with explosives on Thursday outside the building in the capital Bratislava where a NATO meeting is to open on Friday. The two plastic bags, containing a total of almost one and a half kilos of explosives were discovered under a rubbish bin. Around 300 representatives from 39 countries are due to gather for a five-day meeting of NATO's parliamentary assembly starting on Friday. The Bratislava event comes two months after Slovakia and six other former Soviet bloc countries joined the transatlantic NATO alliance on March 29.

Police break up gang who faked Czech painters' works

Police say they have broken up a gang who faked works by Czech 19th and 20th century painters, earning about six million Czech crowns. The bogus works attributed to artists Jan Zrzavy, Kristian Kodet, Vaclav Spala, Vojtech Sedlacek and others were sold in auctions and in galleries. Detectives have warned collectors that some fakes, particularly of Zrzavy, could still be in private galleries, as not all have yet been identified. Police have seized over 160 paintings and accused three people of fraud and breach of copyright. If found guilty, they face up to 12 years in prison.

Czech Tax Freedom Day on June 15

Czechs will celebrate this year's Tax Freedom Day on June 15, three days later than in 2003, the Liberal Institute said on Thursday. This means Czechs will spend 166 days of this year making money for public budgets and then 200 days earning for themselves. In 2000, when introduced in the Czech Republic, the Tax Freedom Day fell on June 6. In the 1930s, Czechs and Slovaks celebrated tax freedom in February. In the United States Tax Freedom Day in 2004 fell on April 11.


Friday should be a warm and sunny day with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 21 degrees Celsius.