Cowen: Ireland supports EU enlargement

Irish foreign minister Brian Cowen is visiting the Czech Republic. At a meeting with his Czech counterpart, Jan Kavan, Mr Cowen highlighted the fact that 59 percent of Irish people support EU enlargement, despite a recent "no" vote in a referendum on the Nice treaty. Mr Kavan said Ireland was a model country for the Czech Republic as it bids to join the EU, and that he appreciated Ireland's offer for assistance in the process. Ireland announced earlier that it will not request a transition period for free movement of labour after the accession of new candidate countries from Central and Eastern Europe, a stance appreciated by the former East bloc nations.

Law on EU accession referendum approved

The Czech Senate has approved a law granting the country's citizens a referendum upon joining the European Union. The law is crucial for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. According to Czech president Vaclav Havel, the referendum could take place in 2003. In that year, parliaments of EU member countries are expected to ratify membership of new candidate countries. The law will now be submitted to the Czech Lower House for approval.

Czech Republic could join eurozone in 6 years

The Czech Republic could join the single European currency two to four years after accession to the EU in 2004 or 2005, according to participants at a conference called Euro-Union 2001. The conference agreed that 2007 or 2008 were realistic dates for the Czech Republic to adopt the Euro. However, they identified several aspects that can endanger the process, such as the growing deficit in public finances. Continuation of this negative trend can even threaten the economic balance of the country, the conference concluded. The criteria for entry to the single European currency are a public finance deficit not higher than 3 percent and an overall debt below 60 percent of GDP.