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Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Thursday that he was glad that in the Austrian government's declaration made on Wednesday by Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, certain passages on the Czech Republic had been omitted. The original version which came under much criticism from the Czech Republic contained references to relations between Czechs and some 2.5 million Sudeten Germans who were expelled from Czech lands after 1945 and suggested that the Benes decrees which sanctioned these expulsions should be abolished before the Czech Republic is admitted entry to the European Union. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrer-Waldner recently stated that Austria has never made expansion conditional on Benes Decree abolition.
Although Kavan said he was pleased that these parts of the declaration had been left out, he reiterated Czech concern at the inclusion of the far right Freedom Party in the new Austrian government.
Newly elected Czech Health Minister Bohumil Fiser is set to start on work on Monday morning. Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his deputy Vladimir Spidla, who has been temporarily running the ministry, are to accompany Fiser and introduce him to his new job. There has been speculation in the Czech media that Fiser will bring in various specialists to form a team of advisors. He told journalists on Thursday that he has not yet decided who will be on the team. Fiser is due to make his first appearance in the Czech Parliament in the second half of March, when he takes part in a session of the Parliamentary Health Committee.
Bohumil Fiser also mentioned on Thursday, that one of his first intentions will be to get the press office up and running, since the former press spokesman left last year and as Fiser said, the ministry has some catching up to do as far as its image in the eyes of the media is concerned.
A conference is underway in Sofia, Bulgaria, of the Roma representives of 5 countries of central and eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic. Observers say this is the first stage of an international project focusing on the development of the roma community in the region. Seminars will be held after the conference in each of the five countries, providing information for the public. The World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are among the sponsors.
The third and final reading of the budget is to take place during the forthcoming session of the Czech Parliament on 22nd February. Observers say this will be a critical point in the session, as support from the largest opposition party the Civic democrats will be needed to push through the budget. The Civic democrats promised their support once a cabinet reshuffle has taken place. Prime Minster Milos Zeman and President Vaclav Havel announced earlier this week that the vote on the budget will come before the promised ministerial changes.
Leader of the Railway Union, Jaromir Dusek, confirmed on Thursday that he held secret talks with Prime Minster Milos Zeman earlier in the week. Although both Zeman and Dusek declined to reveal any details, observers say that personnel changes at the Ministry of Transport were likely to have been one of the main topics on the agenda.
Head of the Ministry Antonin Peltram is thought to be one of the ministers who will be dismissed in the forthcoming cabinet re-shuffle. The Rail Unions have made it clear in the past that they would like to see MP and former Unionist Miroslav Kapoun taking over from Peltram. Specualtion that Kapoun could be the next Transport Minister, increased on Thursday, when Zeman announced that he is unable to attend a celebration of the founding of the Union next week and that Kapoun will go in his place.
Friday will see a cold, overcast start to the day with patches of sunshine breaking through towards the afternoon. Temperatures during the day are expected to range from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to around zero.
I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news
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