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.
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.
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.
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 Czech government has agreed on a proposal that would enforce a five-year moratorium for foreigners wishing to own Czech realty after the country's accession to the European Union next year. Exempt will be ex-patriots with temporary or permanent residency status. Under the proposal Czech farmers will benefit an additional two years - till 2011 - as far as the buying up of agricultural ground is concerned. The proposal is part of a new bill amendment that must now be passed by parliament and signed by the president.
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.
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on Tuesday that a drive was being launched to root out corrupt and incompetent police officers. Mr Gross said the police force would take strong action against bad officers by the end of the year, though he said it would take longer to solve the problem. Police chief Jiri Kolar said between ten and fifteen percent of Czech police officers were corrupt, representing a figure between 4,600 and 6,900 people.
Thursday is expected to be mostly sunny with a chance of brief clouding over and isolated showers. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach 22 degrees Celsius.
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