The Chamber of Deputies has been holding a special session to discuss the planned constitution for the European Union, days after an inter-governmental conference on the document began in Rome. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Tuesday that his cabinet would put forward a bill allowing for a referendum on the proposed constitution. Meanwhile, MP Jan Zahradil of the opposition Civic Democrats, which called the debate, said the EU was already functioning well without a constitution. The Czech Republic and nine other countries are to become members of the EU next May.
Eleven Iraqi children are recovering from surgery in Czech hospitals. The Motol hospital spokeswoman Eva Jurinova said there had so far been no complications and the project of helping Iraqi children with serious inborn defects was going according to plan. The children, many of whom have serious heart defects, were diagnosed by doctors at the Czech field hospital in Basra, southern Iraq. They had no hope of getting adequate medical care in their own country. A group of four more children are expected in Prague shortly.
The Czech Republic is to assist Iraq in establishing its interior ministry and fire brigade. The Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who has just ended a working visit to Baghdad, said the Iraqi authorities had requested this assistance from Prague since the Czech Republic had experience in undergoing a transformation from a totalitarian regime to a democracy. Czech experts will thus not only be involved in the process of training policemen and investigators but will advise Iraq on structural changes at the ministry. Members of the Czech military police are already training future Iraqi policemen in Basra.
Opponents of the Temelin nuclear power plant have taken their case to court on the grounds of fresh evidence relating to safety. The plant's opponents claim they have evidence to prove that a certain construction firm failed to finish its work on a system of pipelines following a problem with payment. They are striving to get the plant closed down on a court order. The plant's management claims that the job was later finished by a different firm and the pipelines were properly tested.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has voiced his belief that EU members and candidates will soon be able to finalise the text of the EU constitution. Speeking at Saturday's meeting of representatives of the 15 European Union member states and the ten accession countries in Rome, Mr Spidla cited several points in which the Czech Republic will demand changes to the proposed constitution, as drafted by the European Union Convention. The Czech government expects the inter-governmental conference, which started on Saturday, to provide space for raising especially those issues relating to the balance of European Union institutions, equality of EU members and cohesion of the EU. The Czech Republic wants every country to appoint one full-fledged commissioner even after 2009. Mr Spidla demanded that the rotation of countries at the head of the Council of Ministers be clarified. He spoke in favour of a team rotation chairmanship.
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.
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.
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.
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