Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:
The Czech parliament ratified the European Social Charter today. The motion, proposed by the government, represents the basic concept of social standards, that are valid in the countries of the European Union, and ratification is one of the steps necessary for joining the EU. The charter received almost universal support from the ruling Social Democrats, the Communists and the two smaller centre-right parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. The only party that voted against the motion was the opposition centre-right Civic Democratic Party, which has always been sceptical of the charter, and has criticised it frequently, saying it has socialist characteristics and is fundamentally wrong in its approach. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that the Czech Republic is able to accept the charters principles and that ratification will not call for many changes to existing Czech law.
Representatives of the three centre-right parties in parliament have criticised a government decision to pass the issue of church restitution to parliament, which will give parliament full responsibility for the matter. This, according to Civic Democratic Party parliamentary deputy Petr Necas, is a typical move by the government: pass on responsibility to someone else, wash ones hands, and say parliament has decided the issue. The Social Democrats are afraid to get into a dispute with the Christian Democrats, Necas said. According to the Social Democrat government, however, this decision should not be made by the executive, and a law on state property should be passed, including how it should be passed to new owners.
The Czech Minister of Defence Vladimir Vetchy is to visit three countries sthat were formerly part of Yugoslavia over the next five days. He will set out on Saturday and will spend a day in Bosnia Herzegovina, the following two days in Slovenia and then two days in Croatia. One of the main discussions to be held in Slovenia will be between Vetchy and Slovenias president Milan Kucan and will focus on the Czech Republics experiences in becoming a member of NATO, as Slovenia is a front runner for joining the organisation in the next wave of expansion.
The Industry and Transport Association has called on the government to lift its ban on new investments in Yugoslavia. The Czech Republic enforced this ban in 1998 following a similar measure by the European Union. Association vice- president Bretislav Ostadal stated that the Czech Republic is not yet in the European Union, and should not shut off possibilities for investing in Serbia. The government should also consider setting up a representatives office in Pristina in Kosovo, Ostadal stated, as the rules concerning the reconstruction of the province are different to those in the Serbian part of Yugoslavia.
On Thursday representatives the Czech Republic and the European Union concluded talks on the Czech Republics budgetary procedures and the countrys estimates for future Czech contributions to the EUs budget. The figures from the Czech side came from old sources such as agriculture and customs duties, and new sources such as VAT and Gross National Product. Also discussed was how the Czech Republic would spend the money it would receive from the EU. Representatives from the European Union delegation were apparently fully satisfied with the spending proposals, as they are line with those of the current EU member states.
The Czech parliament has tuned down a law proposed by the government to increase value added tax on its first reading. The motion was rejected by all of the centre-right parties, who claimed that this was simply a measure by the government to increase the income of the state budget at the expense of taxpayers. These parties also took the same stance towards another government motion to increase consumer tax on petrol and tobacco products.
The poor economic situation currently affecting the Czech Republic is being felt by companies that supply part-time student labour. These companies experienced a drop in demand last year, and this trend is continuing. According to the director the agency Job Centrum in Ostrava, all such companies are dependent on the economic situation in the Czech Republic. The number of students applying through these companies still remains at the same levels as before the recession began, but every year there are less firms requiring part- time summer help, and even if they do, it is for shorter periods than before.
A commission made up of regional representatives of the Roma Civic Association met on Thursday in the North Bohemian town of Most to monitor the situation that is apparently forcing many Roma families to leave the Czech Republic. Association spokesman Ondrej Gina told reporters that it was a great human loss that since 1990 tens of thousands of Roma have left the country. He emphasised that the emigration of Roma is loss for both the Czech Republic and the Roma themselves, as they leave their homes behind. The main reasons that Roma leave the Czech Republic are persecution and racial discrimination. The commission has decided to examine the situation in Most, as the community there has apparently faced problems with the majority Czech community.
Some flooding has occurred in South Moravia following the heavy rains in the Czech Republic at the weekend. In the area around Hodonin, which is near to the border with Slovakia, 70 millimetres of rain fell over the weekend, and five hundred hectares of farmland are under water. Around nearby Straznice, about seven hundred hectares of farmland has been flooded. Other areas around the country are on flood alert, as river levels have been rising, and meteorologists are expecting some further flooding over the next few days.
The hot weather that has affected the Czech Republic in recent weeks has apparently halted the growth of mushrooms, which the Czechs are famed for picking throughout the summer. The heavy rains that have come over the past few days are likely to improve the situation, however. Experts say that within a few weeks, the Czechs should be able to go back into the forests and find a bumper crop of choice mushrooms.
The forecast for today overcast skies, with intermittent rain showers, and temperatures should reach between eighteen and twenty degrees celsius. And that was the news.
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