Czech Foreign Minister says poor ranking on EU ladder could spark hostility
The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has expressed concern that the overall low ranking which the Czech Republic received in last week's progress report published by the European Commission could spark public hostility towards the European Union. Echoing general disappointment on the Czech political scene, minister Kavan said he found the ranking which places the Czechs in the third group of candidate states "unfair". "I am angry and disappointed and I can imagine that a great many Czechs feel the same way" Kavan said at a press briefing in Brno on Saturday.
Reacting to the protests, the European Commission's General Director for Expansion Eneko Landaburu said the Czechs should not overestimate the ranking order established by the commission. No other candidate has made as much progress in the past year as the Czech Republic and the differences between group two and group three are minimal, Landaburu said. On the other hand, he emphasized that the European Commission's ranking order was just and fair.
Meanwhile, during bilateral talks in Brno visiting Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh said Sweden was disappointed by the EU's time-frame for concluding admission talks with the frontrunners. "The plan is not ambitious enough" minister Lindh told reporters adding that when Sweden took over the rotating EU presidency next year it would do its best to speed up the pace.
Ceremonies marking World Veterans' Day have been held in many parts of the Czech Republic. The tradition of paying homage to those who lost their lives fighting in the two world wars and international missions was renewed last year after a fifty year break. Speaking at a ceremony at Vitkov , Czech Army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy recalled how instead of gratitude many of Czechoslovakia's SWW heroes had been treated to suspicion, political persecution and even imprisonment. Many were forced to flee the country to escape their communist persecutors. General Sedivy said that following the return of democracy the Czech Republic was once again building an army of which it could be proud and its participation in international missions in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo were a sign that it was well on the way to achieving that goal.
Czechs are preparing to vote in the country's first regional elections on Sunday. A law that came into effect this year has divided the country into 14 regions, devolving some of the national government's powers to local bodies. Local deputies will decide on budgets and plan the development of hospitals, schools and roads. Elections will take place in all regions except Prague which is a district in itself and will gain its own assembly in the year 2002. The Czech public has so far shown little enthusiasm for this radical change, with some people expressing concern about a possible rise in bureaucracy. Elections to one third of seats in the Senate are also due to take place on Sunday.
And finally, a look at the weather: No significant change there. Sunday should bring partly cloudy skies and some intervals of sunshine but day temperatures will remain fairly low between 6 and 10 degs. C. A slight warming is expected at the beginning of next week with day temperatures forecast at between 10 and 14 degs C.
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