Representatives of the 15 European Union member states and the ten accession countries started talks in Rome on Saturday which should result in the adoption of the European Union Constitution. The Czech delegation is headed by Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. Saturday's meeting is the official start of the negotiating process, known as an intergovernmental conference, to create a new treaty or constitution for the EU. The aim is to clarify who does what inside the EU and to ready the institutions to deal with a much larger union once 10 new members, including the Czech Republic, join the current 15 EU states next May.
President Vaclav Klaus has attacked the Office of the Ombudsman, saying it was little more than a cushy job for retired politicians. Speaking on Czech Radio Mr Klaus said the Ombudsman, which defends civil and legal rights in the Czech Republic, had done almost nothing in the three years since it was established. The Ombudsman himself, former justice minister Otakar Motejl, has declined to comment on the president's outburst.
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.
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