The Interior Ministry is preparing an amendment to the controversial foreigners' law in the Czech Republic, which has been the focus of criticism since it came into effect on January 1st of this year. The ministry intends to cut the waiting period for a visa to ninety days, which under the existing law can take up to six months. Conditions will also be relaxed for children to come to the Czech Republic to be with their parents. One of the main improvements the ministry says, is that refugees seeking political asylum will now be able to apply once in the Czech Republic instead of from their country of origin. This part of the existing law in particular has been criticised by the Czech Helsinki Committee.
According to the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla, the government does not have the funds to deal with many of the problems faced by some of the regions in the Czech Republic. North and West Bohemia, and South Moravia in particular have seen their industry decline and employment figures rise steadily over the past few years. The minister said that the best that many people can hope for at the moment is that the government's planned industrial zones will revitalise industry in these regions.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, has called for a referendum to be held on whether or not the Czech Republic should enter the European Union. Mr. Klaus says that the referendum should be held at the beginning of next year, before the Czech Republic has completed accession negotiations with the EU. According to Mr. Klaus, entering the EU will mean that the Czech Republic will lose part of its sovereignty, and a referendum is therefore essential for the Czech people.
The foreign ministers of the six leading candidate countries seeking EU membership: Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic are to meet in Ljublana on Monday to discuss various issues involved in the EU enlargement process. The six countries apparently plan to approve a statement in which they will remind the European Union of the principles that it set for the enlargement process, in particular the evaluation of each candidate state according to their individual efforts. They will also likely call on the EU to speed up the tempo of the accession process and to prepare and approve a timetable, including an entry date, for the most successful candidate countries.
President Vaclav Havel has entered hospital to prepare for a hernia operation. If the president's pre-operation examinations are satisfactory, then the operation will go ahead. The president's hernia was formed as a result of a life-saving operation after lower intestines ruptured in 1998. The hernia has not endangered the president's life, but has apparently caused him great discomfort over the past two years. Following the operation, the president will spend about two weeks in hospital to recover.
The Czech police have detained seventy three refugees from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and India on the Czech-Slovak border. The refugees were discovered during a routine check on a cold storage van bearing Slovak license plates. During the check, the driver of the van fled the scene, and the refugees were then discovered, including twelve Afghani children. According to a police spokesman, the refugees are to be returned to Slovakia.
On a related note, German police have handed over eight Indian refugees caught trying to cross the Czech-German border illegally. The group had apparently been smuggled into the Czech Republic from Russia, where they were transferred to a van in order to cross the border into Germany.
And finally the weather forecast. The weather for Monday should be fairly mixed, with partially cloudy skies and rain showers and thunderstorms in places. Temperatures during the day should reach between twenty four and twenty eight degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night should be between fourteen and eighteen degrees centigrade. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.
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