The Czech prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, says if a bill allowing a
referendum on the European Union constitution does not receive the
necessary two-thirds majority in parliament the Civic Democrats will bear
responsibility for denying Czechs the right to vote on the issue. The
prime minister made the comments in an interview for the Czech BBC. Mr
Paroubek says the constitution is still viable, and a referendum should
take place at the same time as general elections next June. For their part
the Civic Democrats say the document is dead.
The prime minister is holding talks on the issue with the Communist Party; they say they are in favour of a referendum, but insist that money earmarked for a campaign calling for a yes vote should also be shared with opposition groups.
The chief of the opposition Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek has said his party will vote against a referendum bill that would allow the Czech public to vote on the EU constitution. The Civic Democrats say they see no reason in holding a referendum on the ratification of the European constitution. The other opposition party, the Communists, say the government must divide the money for the campaign leading up to the referendum among all the different opinions on the EU.
The Prime Minister also announced that he would present a new concept of an information campaign about the European constitution in two weeks' time. He said the campaign leading up to the referendum should not only focus on the constitution, but also on Czech membership in the EU in general. The main points of discussion on the EU should be the Schengen treaty, institution of the euro, using EU structural funds, the Czech presidency of the EU and the contribution of the EU to the Czech education system. According to Mr Paroubek, the EU could contribute to the campaign.
The Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that after France and the Netherlands rejected the European constitution, holding a referendum in the Czech Republic is unnecessary. He added that any referendum would only by a public opinion poll and not a meaningful referendum under the Czech constitution. Mr Klaus also said he was not surprised by the failure of EU negotiations on the EU budget for the 2007 to 2013 period, but he did say he believed a compromise would be reached.
The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said that the Czech Republic could still hold a referendum on the European constitution but not before next June. After a meeting of coalition party leaders on Saturday Mr Paroubek said a referendum could be held with parliamentary elections in June 2006. But he added that the most practical solution would be to stage a referendum in 18-20 months. The process of adopting the European constitution by all 25 EU member states has been stopped in its tracks by referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands. EU leaders agreed at their summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to put the constitutional process on hold, but did not kill it off.
Two people were been killed on Saturday when a train struck a car at a level crossing near Trebic in the east of the country. The accident occurred at a crossing without a barrier, and is the latest in a series of similar accidents in recent years that have called into question the safety of such crossings. An investigation is under way.
Meanwhile the agency STEM has released a poll suggesting that nearly 60 percent of Czechs would vote against the EU constitution, were a referendum to be held in the Czech Republic. The poll points to a significant fall in support for the treaty since the "No" votes in France and the Netherlands. In previous polls a firm majority was in favour of the constitution.
The actress Dagmar Havlova, whose husband is the former President Vaclav Havel, is to return to the stage, eight years after she gave up her career to take on the role of the Czech Republic's "first lady". The artistic director of Prague's Vinohrady Theatre said that she would have the main part in a Czech production of a work by the popular American playwright Israel Horovitz. Before her marriage to President Havel, Dagmar Havlova was best known for her roles in a string of popular films from the 1970s and 80s.