The European Commission launched an initiative in Prague on Friday to draw ordinary citizens into the debate about the future of the European Union. Following the No-votes on the European constitution in the Netherlands and France this year, the so-called "Plan D", standing for democracy, dialogue and discussion, is the EU executive's attempt to stir up discussion which can help decide the future of the union. At a news conference with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the Czech capital on Friday, Commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom said this was the first of a number of visits to member states to try and stimulate discussion.
During his Prague visit, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso met the Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Friday. According to the CTK news agency they failed to agree on the scope of EU integration and the status of a European constitution. Mr Barroso urged further EU integration. President Klaus, who is strongly anti-federalist, said he particularly welcomed the new EU initiative since he felt that there was a lack of open debate on problems of European integration, particularly following the rejection of the European Constitution by Dutch and French voters.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who is on a visit to the West Bank, has expressed support for the Middle East peace process. After talks with his Palestinian counterpart, Nasser al-Kidwa in Ramallah on Saturday, Mr Svoboda said that there should be two stable and prosperous states at the end of the peace process and that political dialogue was the only way forward. Minister Svoboda had arrived in the Palestinian territories from Pakistan where he had brought part of Czech humanitarian aid onboard his special flight on Wednesday.
The strongest coalition party, the Social Democrats, say they plan to pass 51 bills by the national elections in mid-next year. The party's acting head Bohuslav Sobotka said their aim was to push the bills through at any cost, if possible with the coalition, or even with the help of the opposition Communists. Mr Sobotka made his statement in response to an article in the daily Hospodarske noviny saying the Social Democrats will not manage to fulfil their election promises, for example the bills on conflict of interests, bankruptcy or rent deregulation. Mr Sobotka said that these particular bills will definitely be discussed. If it becomes evident that the lower house is not able to pass them due to lack of time, the Social Democrats are ready to convoke extraordinary sessions.
According to Saturday's edition of the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, the number of abused children has increased in the Czech Republic. In the first three quarters of this year, police have investigated almost 1,800 cases of torture and sexual abuse of children, which is more than the total number in 2004. This figure is considered to be only a tip of the iceberg, the number of abused children is estimated at 20,000 every year in the Czech Republic. Seven children have died this year as a result of domestic violence.
The rest of the weekend should be partly cloudy to overcast with daytime temperatures between 0 and plus 3 degrees Celsius. Snow showers can be expected throughout the country.
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