The Czech Republic has seen its second case of self-immolation in the past three days: a 55-year-old man from Pacerovice in north Bohemia doused himself with petrol and set himself alight on Wednesday morning. The man suffered burns to 95 percent of his body and is in a critical condition. On Monday night a young man set himself on fire near a Prague petrol station. There have been a repeated number of cases of self-immolation in the Czech Republic ever since a young man burnt himself to death on Prague's Wenceslas Square at the beginning of March.
The prime ministers of the 'Visegrad Four' countries have met in the Czech town of Dobris. The leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia met to discuss the future of the European Union, ahead of a key intergovernmental conference in Rome. The conference takes place Saturday and is aimed at reworking and harmonising elements of the EU draft constitution. The four Visegrad countries, including the Czech Republic, are slated to join the European Union next May as a part of the EU's ten country expansion.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has also addressed some of the challenges of the up-coming intergovernmental conference: on Wednesday he indicated points the Czech delegation will push for in Rome. Among them is the request for a continued rotating presidency of the European Council. The Czechs are also recommending, for example, the threshold for majority voting in the Council of Ministers be raised to representing 60 percent of all EU countries and the population of the EU. Mr Spidla indicated Wednesday that the delegation considered vital that the transition of competencies, between the EU and member states, be ratified by national parliaments.
Police have launched an extensive operation aimed at increasing road safety in the wake of record numbers of deaths on Czech roads. Named Krystof, or Christopher, after the patron saint of travellers, the operation involves over 3,000 police officers, who are monitoring speed, drinking and technical shortcomings in vehicles.
Meanwhile, President Vaclav Klaus surprised some observers on Wednesday when he said he would not attend the opening of the intergovernmental conference in Rome. Speaking after talks on the Czech delegation's mandate Wednesday morning, Mr Klaus said he would not be going because - in his view - there was too little time at the conference to discuss the proposed EU constitution in detail. The president said he would leave the presentation of the Czech position up to the prime minister alone. In recent days the president had criticised the EU's draft constitution, saying it supported the rise of "a super-state" in which the role of the Czech Republic would be marginal. The president did indicate on Wednesday that he and the prime minister had managed "at least a little" to streamline the Czech position.
President Vaclav Klaus has said the Czech government has not done enough to explain the possible consequences of a planned European Union constitution to the public. Speaking after talks with the Polish prime minister, Leszek Miller, who is in Prague on an official visit, Mr Klaus said both the Czech Republic and Poland needed to ensure they had a fair degree of power in the Union.
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.
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