Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Wednesday that the EU must be ready for expansion by the end of 2002, and he told Czech President Vaclav Havel, who is on a state visit to Germany, that he backs the Czech Republic's bid for EU membership. Chancellor Schroeder refuted claims by German business leaders that the EU will not be ready for expansion by 2004. President Havel, who is on his first state visit to Germany since he took office, thanked the German Chancellor for his support. Chancellor Schroeder also stated that his support for the Czech Republic's entry into the EU was without any bilateral conditions.
The Czech government has approved a report compiled by the Czech republic and the European Commission assessing employment policy in the Czech Republic. According to a government spokesman, the report contains an overview of the current economic situation in the Czech Republic. According to the spokesman, development of the Czech labour market is characterised by structural changes, an institutional framework and attaining the main goals of the labour market. These main tasks include wage increases, motivation and workforce mobility.
According to Czech Minister of Defence, Vladimir Vetchy, the Czech reconnaissance unit that is currently participating in the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, and the Czech unit that forms part of the SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, will remain in place at least until the end of the year. Mr. Vetchy said on Wednesday that a further decision on whether to keep these Czech troops in the Balkans will be taken in October. This follows a proposal by the Czech armed forces that the Czech troops be recalled this July. If the government decides in October to continue the Czech presence in these peacekeeping missions, this will have to be approved by Parliament.
According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Czech Republic will vote against removing Russia from the Council of Europe for repeated human rights violations in its campaign in Chechnya. A ministry spokesman said that the removal of Russia from the council would contradict the wishes of President Havel and the recommendation of the European Parliament. The spokesman said that the Czech Republic would continue to criticise Russia's actions, but that if this criticism is to be effective, then Russia cannot be excluded from the Council of Europe. This statement from the Foreign Minister comes only three days after Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky said that the Czech Republic would vote in favour of removing Russia from the Council of Europe.
The Czech Senate has approved an agreement that will divide up Czechoslovak federal property that has been disputed for years. The agreement was originally signed by the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia last November, seven years after negotiations on the issue broke down. The agreement was ratified by the Slovak Parliament in February. According to Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik, the approval of the agreement is not only important for future good relations between the two countries, but also for the international image of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. According to Mr. Mertlik, if the two countries had been unable to improve mutual relations, then this would have damaged their credibility as viable subjects. The property in question mainly involves stakes in a Czech bank and a Slovak bank, plus four tonnes of Slovak gold. Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamzik welcomed the Senate's approval of the agreement, saying that it will send a good signal to the international community.
A member of the board of directors of Komercni Banka, one of the largest Czech banks, has been charged with abusing his position in connection with losses of eight billion Czech Crowns, or two hundred million dollars, that the bank incurred from trading with BCL Trading, an Austrian company. Jaroslav Mares told the Czech News Agency that he had indeed been charged, but that he did not feel guilty. Mr. Mares does not intend to resign from the board of directors, but will leave his post if asked to do so by the bank's supervisory board. Nine other former managers at the bank already face the same charges.
The Senate has approved a law proposed by the government concerning genetically modified organisms. This law will define the rules for genetically modified products. These norms, which have so far been lacking in Czech legislation, should ensure environmental protection and health for people and animals.
The weather on Thursday will continue sunny, with clear or partially cloudy skies for most of the country, with the possibility of showers or thunderstorms in the south and south-west. Temperatures during the day should range between twenty four and twenty eight degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night should be around thirteen degrees centigrade.
I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.
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