Senate rejects controversial referendum bill
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has rejected a controversial referendum bill, sending an amended version back to the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, for approval. The Senate said the Czech Constitution should allow a referendum only on joining the European Union, and not on any issue of national importance as proposed by the lower house. The amendment was passed by thirty-nine of the sixty-one senators present. If the amended bill becomes law, EU entry will be approved in a national vote within 75 days of the Czech Republic signing the EU accession treaty. More than half of the electorate must take part in the referendum for EU membership to be approved. The Czech Republic aims to join the Union in 2003.
As of Sunday, three former Soviet republics will introduce visa restrictions for the Czech Republic. Czechs will now need to apply for a visa if they want to visit Kyrgyzstan, Moldavia and Turkmenistan. Visa restrictions will also be applied for Czechs in Kazachstan as of October 30th. Similar restrictions were applied for citizens of these four countries by the Czech Republic in May this year.
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman is to start a three-day tour of Italy and the Vatican on Sunday. Mr. Zeman will meet with senior Italian politicians to discuss European integration and joint European security. The prime minister will also meet with Pope Jean Paul II in order to help improve relations between the Czech government and the Catholic Church. The two are due to discuss a bilateral contract that will resolve outstanding legal issues between the Vatican and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is one of the few countries in Central Europe that does not yet have such and agreement with the Vatican. Property disputes between the Vatican and the Czech Republic remain a stumbling block to full relations. All church property was confiscated during the Communist regime, and the issue has yet to be resolved.
The Interior Ministers of five Central European countries have pledged to co-operate more closely to fight organised crime. Ministers from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria and Hungary met in Bratislava on Friday, and signed a joint declaration of closer co-operation. They said their countries would work together to fight gangs smuggling illegal immigrants across their borders. The countries also agreed to form individual expert groups, with each country specialising in a specific cross-border problem. The Czech Republic has been charged with co-ordinating efforts to stop football hooligans from travelling abroad. The Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner described the fight against organised crime as the greatest challenge since the end of the Cold War.
A new project will encourage Roma children to trace the fate of family members who perished in the Holocaust. The project, sponsored by President Vaclav Havel, will encourage Roma children to learn more about the Holocaust from older relatives. A spokesman said the project would also help historians gather more information about the extermination of Czech Roma during the Second World War, a controversial and often neglected subject in the Czech Republic. More than 500 men, women and children are believed to have died in Czech-run concentration camps for Roma during the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. The rest of the pre-war Roma population, numbering some 7,000 people, were transported to Auschwitz, where all but a handful were killed.
And finally, the weather forecast. The weather on Sunday in the Czech Republic should start off foggy, followed by overcast or partially cloudy skies. The highest daytime temperatures should reach sixteen degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night should reach a maximum of five degrees Celsius. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.
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