Czech President Vaclav Klaus has criticised the European constitution, as put forward by the EU Convention on the Future of Europe, saying it supported the rise of a superstate, in which the Czech Republic would have little influence. The draft constitution was designed to allow the EU function more effectively after it expands from 15 to 25 member states next May but Mr Klaus warned it would rather deepen the gap between people and decision-makers. Its approval, he added, would be a big step towards the creation of a federal or even supra-national state. The Czech President is not the only one to criticise the draft. Smaller current and future EU member states have all expressed concern that the European constitution, in its current form, only benefited the bigger states.
Meanwhile, the largest party in the governing coalition, the Social Democrats, have not yet decided whether to take action against party MP Josef Hojdar, who refused to vote with the government on financial reforms, or in a Civic Democrat sponsored vote of no confidence. The Social Democrats' central executive committee met on Saturday but did not vote on a proposal by MP Jozef Kubinyi that Mr Hojdar either return to the party's deputies group, which he left in July, or consider giving up his mandate.
A group of British scientists have concluded from a study of Czech beer drinkers that it is "unlikely" that beer intake is associated with a big beer belly. The University of London research team, which took a random sample of over a thousand men and over a thousand women in the Czech Republic, found that beer drinking was not related to body mass index in men and was only slightly related to body mass index in women.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has succeeded in passing a package of eleven bills aimed at reducing the Czech Republic's record budget deficit and preparing the country for the adoption of the euro currency in 2010. On Friday the Chamber of Deputies voted to increase consumer tax, raise the pension age, reduce illness benefits and lower state support for building savings. Mr Spidla, who had staked his future on the reforms being pushed through, said he was optimistic next year's budget would also be approved. The bills must now be passed by the Senate and signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
The Czech defence minister, Miroslav Kostelka, and the United States ambassador to Prague, Craig Stapleton, have visited the Czech military field hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. During Saturday's visit both men thanked the soldiers for their work. The Czech parliament has to decide by the end of the year whether to extend the field hospital's mandate.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Spidla said on Saturday that the Czech secret service, the BIS, had not kept Mr Hojdar under surveillance. However, according to the head of the lower house committee which monitors the BIS, Civic Democrat MP Jan Klas, the license numbers of two cars Mr Hojdar says followed him are those of secret service vehicles. The chief of the BIS, Jiri Lang, denies that the agency shadowed Mr Hojdar.
Vladimir Spidla's centre-left coalition has, as expected, survived a vote of no confidence tabled by the opposition Civic Democrats. All but one of the government's 101 deputies voted against the motion in Friday's vote, with rebel Social Democrat Josef Hojdar, who is opposed to planned financial reforms, abstaining. Prime Minister Spidla faces perhaps a sterner test in voting on those reforms, which he wants parliament to approve by Tuesday. The reforms are designed to reverse a record budget deficit and qualify the Czech Republic for the euro currency by 2010. The country is to join the European Union next May.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, discussed the future of the European Union and the planned EU constitution during talks with his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski in the Czech spa town of Jesenik on Friday. Mr Klaus said afterwards that they had been in almost complete agreement on the need to maintain an inter-governmental system and to resist federalism.
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