On an official visit to Germany, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said bilateral relations between the two neighbours have never been better. Mr. Klaus' talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and President Johannes Rau focused on the two countries' business relations, the future of the European Union and the war on Iraq. At a press conference in Berlin, President Klaus said that the immediate concern of both states, as far as Iraq was concerned, was to avoid a full scale humanitarian crisis and help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. Speaking just a day after the European Parliament endorsed the Czech Republic's admission to the EU, President Klaus said he was certain that Czechs would vote in favour of joining the European Union in a national referendum, expected in June. We have some questions about the future evolution of EU institutions but for us there is nevertheless no alternative, Mr. Klaus said.
Meanwhile, the Lower House of Parliament has given its final approval to a law allowing the Czech Republic to hold a referendum on EU membership. The law stipulates that the referendum should take place over two days -on a Friday and Saturday. President Vaclav Klaus has the authority to set the exact date, with mid-June seen as the most favorable term.
The Iraqi woman who was denied entry into the Czech Republic last week, has been granted a new Czech visa. The head of the Foreign Ministry's press department Karel Boruvka said on Thursday that Salia Khalaf, her husband and seriously ill son had all been granted visas and were welcome to return to the country. Mrs. Khalaf who came to the Czech Republic hoping that her son would get badly needed medical care here was turned away by the foreign police -in spite of the fact that she had a valid visa - on the grounds that she presented a security threat. She miscarried hours later on a plane to Syria. The Czech Foreign Ministry has come under severe criticism over the incident.
The Czech Union of Judges has called for a radical reform of the Czech judiciary. At a press conference in Prague on Thursday, the President of the Czech Union of Judges Jaromir Jirsa said that the current model, under which judges and courts were subordinated to the justice ministry -and thus to political parties- rendered them vulnerable to indirect political pressure. This model has been functioning for over 150 years and violates the principle of independent courts. It is ineffective, outdated and needs to be changed, Mr. Jirsa told newsmen. The Czech Union of Judges said it needed strong support from the media because there was a distinct lack of political will to bring about radical change.
Czech deputy premier Petr Mares has said that the Czech government should find the courage for "a gesture of reconciliation" towards the Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. Mr. Mares, who is a member of the smallest party of the governing coalition, the Freedom Union, said that he thought a verbal apology or proclamation within the framework of the 1997 Czech-German reconciliation agreement would be suitable. It would have to be clear that the issue cannot be re-opened legally, Petr Mares told newsmen. In reaction to the statement, the Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla made it clear that Mr. Mares was not speaking on behalf of the government. This matter has not been discussed and is not on the agenda, the Prime Minister said.
Friday is expected to bring overcast skies and scattered showers across most of the country with day temperatures between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius.
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