Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have warned Austria that there is no place in Europe for intolerance and xenophobia. The two prime ministers used a joint article in the Financial Times to deliver their message to Austria's recently formed government, which includes Joerg Haider's far right Freedom Party. Blair and Zeman pointed out that the EU's planned launch today of an intergovernmental conference to agree on reforms needed for enlargement would end Europe's Cold War divisions and would aid stability, free markets and democracy across the continent. We are convinced that enlargement is in the interests of the whole of Europe, the two prime ministers said, and they expressed their hope that the new Austrian government also understands this.
On a related note, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said over the weekend that Austria will not link its approval of the Czech Republic's accession to the EU with issues concerning post-war compensation. Schuessel stressed that Vienna still wants to discuss these issues with Prague. This statement comes just a few days after the leader of the far right Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, called for compensation for Germans who were deported from Czechoslovakia to Austria after the Second World War, as part of the Benes Decrees. The Austrian government also called for compensation to be discussed as part of its manifesto, which was released last week. This was greeted with consternation in Prague, and as a result the Austrian government dropped this demand from its manifesto.
Prime Minister Milos Zeman begins a two-day official visit to Portugal today. Apart from meeting his counterpart Antonio Guterres, he is to deliver a speech at a business forum, with the aim of promoting and boosting Czech-Portuguese trade relations. The prime minister will be accompanied by Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl and the Minister of Trade and Industry Miroslav Gergr, who will meet with their counterparts to discuss mutual trade and issues related to EU expansion. The prime minister is also due to meet with the chairman of the Portuguese parliamentary EU enlargement committee.
The Czech government intends to redefine the position of the Czech National Bank in order to streamline the EU accession process and enable the Czech National Bank to join the European System of Central Banks. The cabinet has presented an amendment to the law concerning the bank's objectives, and this amendment will make it possible for the Czech National Bank to join the European System of Central Banks after the Czech Republic's entry into the EU.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry will subsidise the participation of Czech industrial companies in one of the largest African trade fairs, the International General Trade Fair, which will be held in Cairo in March. The Czech-Arab Chamber of Commerce has highlighted the importance of the event, pointing out that Egypt has a population of 62 million, and its economy has a strong growth potential.
And on a pleasant note, the Czech police have found a thirteen-year-old Russian girl who was kidnapped on February 4th. The girl's mother was attacked by unknown assailants, and the girl was carried off. Her kidnappers then demanded a large ransom. The police carried out an intensive search for the girl, and found her on Saturday, eight days after her kidnapping. She is now back safely with her parents.
Tonight will bring overcast skies and temperatures of between minus four and zero degrees centigrade. The weather on Tuesday promises to be quite gloomy, with overcast skies, with rain or sleet showers possible. Temperatures during the day should range between one and five degrees centigrade. And that was the news.
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