The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain have urged the French to say "yes" to the EU constitution, ahead of a key ballot by France's opposition Socialists on whether to back the treaty. In a joint article in the daily Le Monde, prime ministers Gross, Schroeder and Zapatero said the European Constitution contained "only progress and no steps back" and that it would create a stronger European Union of which France was an important part. "France needs Europe and Europe needs France for a more democratic, stronger and more effective Europe" the joint article says. The December 1st vote will decide whether the French Socialists will back the treaty in a referendum due next year.
The Constitutional Court is to judge whether the introduction of the European arrest warrant is in compliance with Czech law. Deputies of the opposition right wing Civic Democratic Party claim that extraditing citizens is in violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and thus in violation of the Czech Constitution. The party has urged the Constitutional Court to address the matter as soon as possible since the criticized provisions in the penal code have already taken effect. As of November 1st, Czech citizens suspected of serious crimes such as terrorism, paedophilia, or murder can be extradited to other EU states.
The Lower House of Parliament has narrowly rejected a bill which would have introduced stricter punishment for drinking and driving or driving without a valid license. Deputies who voted against it said they considered the proposed amendment redundant since existing laws allegedly provide sufficient means of dealing with such transgressions. The transport ministry has long been pressing for the introduction of a points system which would give the traffic police more leverage over bad drivers and enable them to confiscate drivers' licences for repeated offences. The number of deaths on Czech roads is currently the highest in Europe.
The international community on Friday postponed a decision on the future use of methyl bromide, a chemical harmful to the ozone layer. After five days of discussions in Prague discord persisted on the volume of exemptions which could be agreed in 2006. A decision is expected to be made at a planned meeting in Montreal, next June. Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, developed countries were to stop using the chemical at the end of 2004, but 11 states, including the United States, have obtained exemptions.
The Lower House of Parliament has decided that the planned increase in the salaries of police officers and some other state employees will be postponed by one year. Under a bill, originally approved by the Lower House in October, the salaries of police officers, customs officers and fire fighters were going to be increased as of January 2005 by 8,000 crowns to an average 32,000 crowns (around 1,000 euros) a month. The bill was strongly opposed by the Christian Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats who argued that it would raise mandatory expenditures to an unacceptable level.
The police have charged a doctor at the Trebic maternity ward with trading in newborns. The head of the maternity ward has already been charged along with four other people, who are suspected of having sold at least two babies to infertile couples. Both doctors have denied the accusations saying that they merely provided medical care and had no idea what was involved. The ring-leader contacted women planning to have an abortion, persuading them to have their babies and sell them. The police say it is still not clear how many babies may have been sold in this way. Those involved could face up to ten years in prison.
A report by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions says that the number of people addicted to heroin and the Czech-made methamphetamine pervitin has dropped by some 7, 500 since the year 2000 when the centre registered over 37,000 users of heroin and pervitin. However, the number of young people experimenting with recreational drugs is on the rise. Forty-four percent of 16-year-olds admit they have tried marijuana and 8 percent say they have experience with club drugs.
The weekend should be partly cloudy to overcast with some scattered showers and day temperatures between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius.
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