The Czech Republic has rejected criticism from French President Jacques Chirac, who on Monday slammed the EU candidate countries for expressing open support for US plans to disarm Iraq. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda noted that his country had a right to its opinion. Responding to President Chirac's remark that "the candidate countries had missed a great opportunity to shut up" Mr. Svoboda said that the Czech Republic was not planning to join the EU in order to "shut up" but to help mould European policies. While Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla described Mr. Chirac's words as "neither balanced nor correct", members of the opposition Civic Democratic Party are speaking of "the arrogance of power" wielded by the bigger countries of the EU. Poland and other east European candidates likewise responded in anger to President Chirac's criticism and the unspoken suggestion that they should shut up and be grateful they were being allowed to join the alliance.
European Union leaders on Tuesday met for foreign policy consultations with 13 future members in an effort to diffuse tension sparked by French President Jacques Chirac's verbal attack on the EU candidates on Monday. Mr. Chirac evoked outrage across eastern Europe, when he slammed candidate countries for their stand on the Iraqi crisis, calling them "childish and irresponsible" and telling them they would have done better to "shut up". The hastily convened foreign policy consultations in Brussels produced a common statement calling for a peaceful resolution of the Iraqi crisis but warning Bagdad to disarm or face war as a last resort. In the document current and future EU members promise to "avoid new dividing lines" and vow "joint endeavours" to meet their common goals. The Czech Prime Minister told reporters he welcomed the gesture and stressed the need for present and future EU members to hold foreign policy consultations on important issues.
The Czech Supreme Court has re-opened a 26 year old case against members of the underground rock band the Plastic People of the Universe. In 1976 four members of the band were imprisoned on charges of disorderly conduct, and they have asked to get their names cleared claiming that the 1976 trial was manipulated by the communists. The Plastic People was one of the strongest symbols of communist dissent in the 70s and 80s and its members were frequently persecuted by the regime.
The Sazka Company says it has received a bank loan which will enable it to continue with the construction of a multi-purpose arena needed for the 2004 World Ice Hockey Championship. The announcement follows disquieting reports that the Czech Republic would be unable meet its commitment to host the championship because the mentioned arena would not be finished in time for the event. The Sazka company was forced to suspend work on it recently due to a financial dispute with the owner of the construction site. Sazka's management announced on Tuesday that the arena would be finished on schedule.
Wednesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered snow showers and day temperatures between -4 and 0 degrees Celsius.
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