Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has thanked Czechs for endorsing the country's accession to the European Union in a historic referendum over the weekend. According to a final result published by the Czech Statistical Office 77 percent of voters cast ballots in support of EU entry, 23 percent voted against. The turnout was 55 percent. Support for EU membership reportedly came from all strata of society and from all political parties.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said it was "a historical and fateful vote" but quickly reminded Czechs that much needed to be done for the Czech Republic to join the EU as an equal partner next May. He said that the positive outcome of the vote gave the government, which has a narrow one-vote majority in the Lower House, a strengthened mandate to enact key reforms needed for the eventual adoption of the euro. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said the outcome was a success for all Czech citizens. Although no minimum turnout was required, a fairly strong turnout was important for the ruling coalition which has spent 200 million crowns on a campaign promoting EU membership. Joining the European Union has been the country's main foreign policy goal since the fall of communism in 1989.
The European Commission also thanked the Czech electorate for voting "yes". "The Czech Republic takes the place it was always entitled to" said the Commission's chief representative in Prague Mr. Ramiro Cibrian. Congratulations have come from the EU Commissioner for Expansion Mr. Gunter Verheugen, from Greece which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and from representatives of the European Parliament.
Both EU members and EU candidates have congratulated the Czech Republic on making "the right decision" and "putting faith in the future of the European Union". The French Minister for European Affairs Noelle Lenoir welcomed Czechs in the EU and said that the return of the Czech Republic to Europe was excellent news for all. German officials called it " a great day for the Czech Republic" and in the Austrian capital Vienna, Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero Waldner welcomed Czechs to the EU with a few sentences in Czech.
The Czech Republic is one of ten predominantly former communist states set to join the European Union next May in a "big bang" eastward expansion. Voters in Poland, Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia have already approved accession in national referenda. Estonia and Latvia are to vote in September.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Vondra is in Iraq to negotiate the conditions under which the Czech Republic will participate in the reconstruction of that country. Mr. Vondra spent Sunday in Basra where he visited the Czech field hospital which has been serving the civilian population in and around Basra since May. The Czech government is sending twenty Czech experts to Iraq to help restore the country's damaged infrastructure and has appointed a liaison officer for Czech firms which are interested in participating in the reconstruction of Iraq.
An ultra-light two seat plane has crashed in north-western Bohemia, killing the pilot and seriously injuring a passenger. The plane crashed from a thirty meter height after the pilot apparently lost control of the aircraft. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Monday is expected to be partly cloudy, with scattered showers and day temperatures between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius.
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