The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has told BBC TV that Britain's decision to postpone the ratification process of the EU Constitution would complicate the situation for the Czech government. Speaking on "News night" Mr. Paroubek said that coupled with the French and Dutch rejections, Britain's decision to suspend a referendum on the EU Constitution, made it impossible to continue with ratification plans as if nothing had happened. The Czech Prime Minister, who is strongly pro-federal, said it was now necessary to begin a debate on the Constitution's future. The Czech government had earlier expressed its resolve to forge ahead with an information campaign on the EU Constitution and was severely criticized by the opposition Civic Democrats who said the EU Constitution was dead and there was no point in wasting money on a campaign.
On an official visit to Slovakia, the Czech Prime Minister likewise discussed EU matters with his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda. Both heads of government said they might support a possible extension of the two year deadline for the ratification process. The Czech Prime Minister said he was in favour of pushing ahead with ratification, but that he could not rule out certain modifications in Czech policy following Britain's decision to shelve its referendum. The Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said his country would do whatever appeared "meaningful", stressing that in the expanded European Union it was necessary to show flexibility and listen to the arguments of others.
Eight senators have expressed support for an association of Czech house owners who are planning to sue the Czech Republic for hundreds of millions of crowns in "moral damages" at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The association is unhappy with the country's policy of regulated rent. Eight senators for the opposition Civic Democratic Party have publicly backed the association's decision to sue the Czech Republic calling on the government to address the problem. House owners who have filed the complaint, say that the collected rent does not even cover maintenance costs. Rent control covers almost 20 percent of occupied apartments nationwide.
One of the six new Gripen fighter jets which the Czech Republic has leased from Sweden is not operable due to a malfunctioning display panel. Swedish technicians are reportedly looking into the problem. The Czech military received the fighters only a few weeks ago. Another eight are to be supplied in the second half of the year. The planes have replaced an aging fleet of Soviet MiG-21s. They are being leased for 10 years for almost 20 billion crowns (850 million dollars).
The Czech Foreign Ministry and US embassy officials are discussing concrete steps which would lead to either easing or abolishing visa requirements for Czech citizens in the future. Czech officials see the term 2007 as a possible date for the inclusion of the Czech Republic in the US visa-free programme, but the US embassy in Prague has refused to confirm the possibility. Of the new EU members only Slovenian nationals do not require visas to travel to the United States.
Two miners died early on Tuesday in an accident at the Darkov coal mine near Karvina in the east of the Czech Republic. A spokeswoman for the mining company said the accident happened 770 metres below the surface when rocks caved in on the miners. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Wednesday is expected to be overcast with rain showers and day temperatures between 11 and 15 degrees Celsius.
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