News Saturday, DECEMBER 09th, 2000

By Nick Carey

EU leaders hope expansion will start by 2004

At the European Union Summit in Nice, EU leaders have promised that the Union will be ready to accept new members as of the end of 2002, and that they hope the first new states would join before the European Parliament elections in 2004. In the conclusions of a draft report, which was release midway through the summit, EU leaders state that they want to inject fresh impetus into the Union's plans to admit 12 new members, the Czech republic included, most of which are former communist countries. The EU also urged the candidate countries to continue and speed up necessary reforms. The draft, however, did not include a target date for accession for the six frontrunner candidates, which the Czech Republic is part of. This lead group has made frequent calls in recent months for a date to be set, but will now have to wait until the next EU summit in Gothenburg in Sweden in June, where the next steps in the expansion process will be decided.

Court rejects election complaint

A court in the Central Bohemian city of Hradec Kralove has rejected a complaint from a small centre-left party and independent candidates over the recent regional elections. The Czech National Socialist Party and independents in the region complained that almost three thousand votes had been discounted illegally, and wanted them recounted. The court stated that one hundred votes had been removed incorrectly, and ruled that they should be included in the final tally. These votes were predominantly for two larger parties that won the election in the Hradec Kralove region, and so do not affect the result for the independents and the National Socialists, who required an extra eight hundred votes to gain five percent of the vote. If they had obtained five percent, they would have received seats in the regional parliament.

Despite government decision, Czech ambassador still in place

The Czech Republic's ambassador to Bulgaria, Ondrej Havlin, whose controversial remarks have brought forth a storm of diplomatic protests from Sofia, is apparently still in office, despite a government decision on Tuesday to replace him, and despite an upcoming visit to Prague by Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on Monday. Mr. Havlin has apparently made abusive comments about Bulgarian politicians and belittled Bulgaria's chances of joining the EU, remarks which led Bulgarian diplomats to call for his removal as ambassador. According to a spokesman for Czech President Vaclav Havel, Mr. Havlin's removal has yet to be countersigned by Prime Minister Milos Zeman. The Foreign Ministry, however, says that the Bulgarian government has been informed of Mr. Havlin's impending removal, and that this should not have any negative impact on the Bulgarian prime minister's visit.

Gregr: politicians should not receive salary for private sector work

The Trade and Industry Minister, Miroslav Gregr, says that Czech politicians should not receive any salary for work carried out for the boards of directors of private companies. This contravenes a decision made last weekend by the executive committee of the ruling Social Democratic Party to call on the patry's MPs and senators to resign from such positions. Mr. Gregr argues that these politicians should remain in these posts, but that they should receive any salary.

And finally, the weather forecast. A cold front should hit the Czech Republic from the West over the weekend, bringing fairly grim weather with it. Saturday should start out foggy, followed by overcast skies and scattered rain or snow showers. The highest daytime temperatures should reach nine degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night should reach a maximum of five degrees Celsius. The weather should continue much the same on Sunday, with overcast skies and low temperatures. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.