On an official visit to Prague, the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned against opening up controversial questions in the proposed European constitution. Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Mr. Fischer described the present draft as "a reasonable compromise between large and small states", arguing that whoever opened up a controversial issue should be responsible for closing it. The German Foreign Minister said the EU could not afford endless debates, warning that unless the proposed draft of the constitution received definite confirmation by March of 2004, the EU would face a serious crisis.
By contrast, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said there was still room for negotiations on certain questions. If nothing were to be opened up, there would be no point in holding an international conference at all, Svododa said. Smaller EU states are still pushing to strengthen their position in the future EU, for instance by granting each country an individual commissioner and maintaining the institution of the revolving chairmanship.
Doctors are treating an outbreak of dysentery among a Roma community in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. So far thirty two people, including two nurses have been hospitalized with severe intestinal disorders. Many of the patients are children, the youngest of which is seven months old. The health authorities are monitoring the situation and urging local residents to take strict hygiene precautions.
The dominant Czech telephone operator, Czech Telecom, has announced that it will lay off 1800 workers by the end of the year. The planned job cuts would reduce Czech Telecom's workforce to around 11000 - down from more than 15000 since the state-controlled company began downsizing in 1996. Telecom spokesman Vladan Crha said the layoffs were part of a "long-term effort to maximize cost savings while maintaining the company's competitiveness and efficiency".
The Czech Republic will reinforce protection of its experts participating in the re-building of Iraq. The government is planning to send some 18 police officers from a special rapid deployment squad to replace a 12-strong military police unit. The Czech coordinator in the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq Janina Hrebickova said the aim was to provide better protection for Czech personnel in Baghdad and Basra. She has also asked for an armed carrier for her team to be able to travel outside the security zone.
Czech wages grew by almost 7 percent on average in the second quarter, after a nearly 8-percent increase the first quarter. The Czech Statistics Office said on Tuesday that the average monthly wage rose to just over 17,000 crowns (or 570 US dollars). The rapid wage growth, coupled with almost zero inflation and record low borrowing costs, has fuelled a consumer boom and this has driven the Czech economy in past quarters.
Wednesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain showers across most of the country. Day temperatures: between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius.
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