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.
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."
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.
A bill was also passed on Friday allowing the building of two weirs on the Elbe River in north Bohemia, despite protests from the environment minister, Libor Ambrozek, and environmental groups. Mr Ambrozek said the building of the weirs would damage the eco-system in the areas in question and was in contravention of EU norms.
A former Iraqi official has told United States investigators that he
did not have a meeting in Prague with the suspected leader of the
September 11 attacks, the New York Times reported on Saturday. Ahmad
Khalil Samir al-Ani denied meeting Mohamed Atta in the Czech capital.
Though Czech officials had initially said that the two men had met, the CIA and FBI eventually concluded that no such meeting took place. A possible connection between Iraq and the September attacks was a reason used by some conservatives in the US to justify invading Iraq earlier this year.
The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, is in Brussels for a summit to decide the shape of the European Union's first constitution. Among the issues to be discussed are voting powers, the number of commissioners and national vetoes on foreign, defence and taxation policy. The Czech Republic is one of ten, mostly ex-communist countries set to join the EU next May, in what will be the biggest enlargement in the Union's history.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies on Friday passed a bill allowing Czech nurses, midwives and other health workers to work in the European Union. The bill, which has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, also allows for health workers from other EU states to work in the Czech Republic.
President Vaclav Klaus granted five presidential pardons on Wednesday, the first time he has done so since he first took office in March. President Klaus's spokesman said they were cases where suspended prison sentences had been imposed or applicants were suffering serious health conditions, or a combination of both. He would not specify any other details on Thursday. The Presidential Office says it has received some 900 pardon applications since March. Mr Klaus' predecessor Vaclav Havel was often criticised for dispensing controversial pardons. Mr Havel's office made public detailed information on every pardon dispensed. Mr Klaus said shortly after his election in late February that he would only grant pardons in exceptional cases.