The government's pro-EU campaign enters the final stage. This week, all Czechs eligible to vote will receive information about the upcoming historic referendum on the country's accession to the EU. Information about various aspects of EU membership will be distributed to all mailboxes throughout the country. The first referendum in Czech history will take place on June 13 and 14. Turnout in Czech elections has been very low in the recent years but the government believes its campaign will attract people to vote in the referendum.
The Catholic Church in Czech Republic has joined eight other nations in what is called the Central European Catholic Days. This will be a series of events running until May 2004, when the participating countries are expected to join the EU. The Church believes that the message of Gospel can help improve the common Europe, to make the economy benefit all and help political decision-making be wise and responsible.
Local floods caused by thunderstorms and torrential rains hit the district of Jihlava on Saturday night. In the town of Jihlava and a number of other towns and villages, water and mud flooded cellars and ground floors of houses, and blocked roads. Firemen and volunteers have been helping in the affected areas. Damage caused by the floods has not yet been established. A few days ago, local-scale floods hit the central-Moravian district of Blansko.
The number of prisoners in the Czech Republic has decreased over the past three years. While in the year 2000, the Czech Republic had 24000 prisoners, this year it is 7000 less. The change is due to an amendment to the penal code in 2002 which introduced various alternative punishments. Czech prisons have been suffering from overcrowding for years. While the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture recommends 6 square metres of floor space for every prisoner, in the Czech Republic, it was just over half the area before 2002.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus met briefly with US president George W. Bush on Sunday to discus mutual relations between their countries. They met in St. Petersburg where they attended official celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the city. Czech press has speculated lately that relations between the White House and the Prague Castle cooled down due to the Mr. Klaus's reserved stance on the US-led invasion of Iraq. However, Czech presidential spokesman Tomas Klvana said the meeting between Mr. Klaus and Mr Bush was in a very friendly atmosphere. President Klaus is planning to visit the United States in the near future.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has been looking for a new defence minister. Although he has a few suitable candidates, he declined to reveal them. Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik resigned on Friday over spending cuts that he said jeopardised efforts to bring the Czech forces up to standards set by NATO. President Klaus is expected to decide whether he will accept the resignation later on Sunday.
A museum dedicated to famous Czech composer Bedrich Smetana opened on Saturday in the town of Jabkenice, Central Bohemia. The memorial and museum was closed for 16 years. It is located in a house where Smetana spent the last years of his life and composed some of his greatest works there, including operas the Kiss and the Devil's Wall, as well as the Bohemian Dances and famous My Country.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus is attending a landmark Russian-EU summit in St. Petersburg, expected to overcome differences between European nations that emerged due to the war in Iraq. Czech president Vaclav Klaus said he would like to officially visit the Russian Federation in the future to become the first Czech president to do so after 1993. He has also accepted invitation to visit China. Mr. Klaus is representing his country at the Russian-EU summit, attended by leaders of the 15 EU nations, candidate countries and Russia. The summit is taking place in St. Petersburg as part of celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the city.
Trade unions in the health care sector have announced they were going on a strike alert because of the planned reform of state finances. Health care workers joined other trade union organisations which are ready to go on strike should the planned reforms seriously affect their members. Besides other things, the reforms envisage a slower wage growth in the public sector, a tax hike and major changes in the health insurance and pension systems.
Czechs living abroad have little interest in casting their votes in the upcoming referendum on EU membership, according to the results of a public opinion poll conducted by reporters for the CTK news agency. The results of the study also suggest that interest in the referendum among Czechs abroad is significantly lower than in last year's parliamentary elections. Those who want to participate in the referendum have to do so in the Czech Republic, a condition that many Czechs abroad object to. CTK points out, though, that these terms have little influence as out of the 239 eligible voters on record at the Czech Embassy in Bratislava, just hours away from the Czech-Slovak border, only twelve had shown a sincere interest in the referendum by Friday.