The dispute between Prime Minister Paroubek and President Vaclav Klaus over foreign policy appears to be over. The two leaders met on Tuesday morning to clear up a dispute which erupted after the Prime Minister accused the President of allegedly overstepping his foreign policy mandate by criticizing the EU Constitution on foreign visits. The Czech government is strongly pro-federalist and Mr. Paroubek accused the President of sending out "confusing signals" regarding the Czech Republic's position. Following their meeting the Prime Minister told journalists that he and the President had agreed to hold foreign policy consultations more frequently and would try to present a unified stand on key issues.
Fifty seven percent of Czechs would like to see the president elected by the people. According to a poll just out close to fifty percent of Czechs said the president should not be connected with any political party. A fifth of respondents said he or she should not be involved in politics in any way. Czechs have expressed similar views in the past, but there has never been sufficient consensus in parliament for the approval of a bill which would enable the president to be elected in a direct vote. Under Czech law he is elected by Parliament.
The opposition Civic Democratic Party has called on the Czech government to halt all moves towards the ratification of the EU Constitution in light of France's rejection of the treaty over the weekend. The right wing Civic Democrats told a news conference in Prague that going ahead with plans for ratification had lost its purpose since the EU Constitution had become a legally invalid document. Some Civic Democratic Party officials have accused the government of wanting to press ahead with a campaign on the constitution in order to access the 200 million crowns allotted to publicize the treaty.
The Christian Democrats of the governing coalition have also called for the ratification of the EU Constitution to be suspended, pending a decision by Brussels. The Christian Democrats, one of the smaller coalition parties, presented their view at a press conference in Prague on Tuesday, independently of the other two ruling parties. This angered Prime Minister Paroubek who accused them of being disloyal to the Cabinet. The prime minister has called a meeting of the coalition leaders for Wednesday to discuss what course of action the government should take.
The Czech tabloid daily Blesk on Tuesday published a childhood picture of musician Tomas Strnad, claiming it had proof that he is the mystery Piano Man found wandering on an English beach last month. The picture of Strnad, aged ten, shows a stark resemblance to the still unidentified man. The mother of a former classmate of Strnad's provided the photograph saying she had recognized him instantly. Two other musicians who used to perform in a band with Strnad also think that the mystery man is their old friend, describing him as a lonely genius who can play classical music from memory.
The bill on a one-off referendum on the EU Constitution, drawn up by the Civic Democrats, remains in play, according to senior party official Premysl Sobotka. Mr. Sobotka said that EU talks might initiate the preparation of a new constitutional treaty, in which case the bill would still be relevant.
Central Bohemia and the capital Prague were hit by a hail storm on Monday afternoon. Two women were hit by falling branches and were taken to hospital with head injuries. A number of tram lines were interrupted for several hours as fallen trees broke the trolleys in some places, and elsewhere tram tracks were under water. Some metro stations were also flooded. The hail storm marked the onset of a cold front bringing an end to a week-long heat wave.
The Czech government will not comment on France's rejection of the European Constitution until the next meeting of the European Council in three weeks' time, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said on Monday. He added that the adoption of the EU Constitution remained a priority for the Czech Republic. The opposition Civic Democrats welcomed the result of the French referendum as well as Czech President Vaclav Klaus who said it "proved that there was a gulf between the opinions of Europe's political elite and normal Europeans". The Czech Republic has not decided how or when to ratify the constitution. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek favours holding a referendum along with parliamentary elections in June 2006.
The Czech Republic's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Stefan Fule, has said the embassy can neither confirm nor deny the information that the mute man, known as the "Piano Man", whom British police are trying to identify after he was found wandering on an English beach last month, could be a Czech citizen. According to Mr Fule, the British authorities have not yet contacted the Czech embassy. Two Czech rock musicians say that after seeing the man's photograph, they recognised him as their friend, Czech musician Tomas Strnad.
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