The Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, has responded to criticism of the EU Constitution by President Vaclav Klaus, who said he was against it 100 percent at the weekend. On Monday, after meeting with the prime minister of Luxembourg, Mr Gross said he believed the constitution would help strengthen the Czech Republic's place within the union, allowing a proper forum for Czech opinion, while a failure to ratify the document would see the Czech Republic pushed to "the outskirts". Mr Gross made clear that despite the president's strong view on the subject, in his view ratification of the EU Constitution was "a step in the right direction".
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has cut short a visit to Asia after suffering a fracture to his foot. The accident happened when Mr Havel, who is 68, slipped in the bathroom at his Taiwan hotel. Officials said Mr Havel has already made changes to his itinerary and cancelled additional visits to Thailand and Indonesia. He will be returning to the Czech Republic mid-week. It is possible the former president will face minor surgery upon his return.
Defence Minister Karel Kunhl has revealed that the Czech Republic will provide at least 350 troops for new EU rapid-response forces by 2007. Along with neighbouring Germany and Austria, the Czechs will form one of 13 rapid-response units, capable of acting in trouble zones anywhere in the world over the course of 15 days. The defence minister pointed out that by 2007 the Czech military will have completed necessary reforms making it capable of providing troops for such operations. Czechs serving in the EU rapid-response force will include classic infantry along with anti-chemical troops and health specialists.
A cheetah at a Czech zoo has become the first in the world to be fitted with an artificial hip. The two-year-old cheetah, from a zoo in Usti nad Labem in north Bohemia, had been suffering from a congenital disorder of a hip joint. The animal was operated on by doctors at a local hospital, to replace the distorted joint with an artificial one. A zoo spokesman said that without an operation the big cat would have been condemned to a gradual loss of mobility and would have had to be put down.
The president of the Czech Union of Judges has said court verdicts should be simple enough for even a child to understand. Addressing a meeting of judges on Saturday, Jaromir Jirsa said a judgment a child could not comprehend was not a good verdict. He also said judges should be more open to public scrutiny and that verdicts should be published on the internet.
Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl has said the next Czech Army contingent sent to Kosovo will be better trained and equipped to deal with ethnic tensions in the province. Mr Kuhnl, on a visit to a Czech base in Pristina, said the troops being sent there next month would be ready for the kind of violence that left dozens dead after clashes between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs earlier this year.
Former Czech prime minister Vladimir Spidla is finally taking up his post as European commissioner for labour and social affairs on Monday, after a delay of three weeks caused by a standoff with EU lawmakers over the makeup of the Commission. Mr Spidla replaces Pavel Telicka, who was appointed the Czech Republic's first commissioner after the country joined the EU in May.
Roman Sebrle was named Czech Athlete of the Year for the third time at a ceremony in Prague on Saturday night. He had been widely expected to win the award after taking gold in the decathlon at the Olympic Games in Athens. High jumper Jaroslav Baba was second in the poll, with discus thrower Vera Cechlova-Pospisilova coming third.
The opposition Civic Democrats believe early elections are the best possible solution to the current political situation, senior party figure Vlastimil Tlusty said on Czech Television on Sunday. Mr Tlusty said, however, the Civic Democrats would not submit a bill to force early elections until it became clear the move would win sufficient support. While the government has been weakened following regional and Senate elections, the next general elections are due in mid-2006.
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