The deputy prime ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic have admitted the influx of Slovak Romanies to the Czech Republic is a problem, but not a critical one. Czech Prime Minster Petr Mares and his Slovak counterpart Pal Csaky agreed at a meeting in Bratislava that a special commission would be set up to address the issue. So far this year more than 1,000 Roma families from Slovakia have sought asylum in the Czech Republic. Mr Mares said what he described as "social tourism" was unacceptable under European law. He said none of the 1,000 Slovak families would be granted asylum in his country.
The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, has said everyone in Europe should pay a visit to the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, north of Prague. Mr Verheugen, speaking during a visit to the camp, said the people of Europe must be reminded that peace and democracy cannot be taken for granted. More than 150,000 Jews from throughout Europe were interned at Terezin, known in German as Theresienstadt, before being transported to death camps such as Auschwitz. Today the camp, which also housed Czech political prisoners, is a museum.
Speaking to Radio Prague the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda,
said that the Czech Republic's key demands as regards the constitution
had not changed.
"The three main points are the commission, the qualified majority voting system and the weight of the votes. All the three problems are still on the table and it is up to all the delegations, up to all the states, to go very carefully through the three points."
Former foreign minister Jan Kavan, who is a member of the Social Democrats, has declined an offer to stand for the Communist Party in elections next year to the European Parliament. Speaking on TV Nova on Sunday, he also said he had turned down a low position on the Social Democrats' list of candidates. The Communists offered Mr Kavan a high place on their list, which would have given him a relatively good chance of being elected. Jan Kavan, who last year was president of the United Nations General Assembly, has been involved in several controversies since the early 1990s.
The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, has expressed disappointment at the failure of a European Union summit to decide on a constitution. Speaking after talks collapsed in Brussels on Saturday, Mr Spidla said he hoped the outstanding issues would be settled in the near future. He also said he was not in favour of a two-speed EU with countries in favour of faster integration leaving other members behind. However, if such a two-speed Union does emerge, the Czech Republic should be among the more dynamic group, Prime Minister Spidla said.
Senior Czech politicians have welcomed the arrest of Saddam Hussein by United States forces. President Vaclav Klaus said the capture of the former dictator of Iraq should speed up the process of consolidation in the country, while Prime Minister Spidla said the transfer of power to the Iraqi people should now take place more quickly. Foreign Minister Svoboda, meanwhile, praised the work of the United States intelligence services in the capture of Saddam.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrats have chosen a former cabinet spokesman, MP Libor Roucek, to lead their candidates in the European Parliament elections. Mr Roucek, the only candidate put forward by the Social Democrat leadership, defeated members nominated by the party's regional organisations in Sunday's vote. The Czech Republic will have 22 Members of the European Parliament.
The Chamber of Deputies has launched a campaign against pawn shops which deal in stolen goods, passing a bill on Friday under which shopkeepers would have to ascertain the identity of clients. The bill's proponents said there were 1,800 pawn shops in Prague alone, many of which were open around the clock.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and other
senior officials have returned to the Czech Republic after a summit to
decide on a constitution for the European Union ended in failure. Talks
broke down on Saturday after Spain and Poland refused to surrender voting
rights they won at the Nice summit, three years ago.
A Czech official told the CTK news agency that the inter-governmental conference could continue in the New Year, when Ireland takes over the presidency of the EU. The Czech Republic and nine other mostly former communist countries are due to join the Union on May 1.