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.
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.
Talks between EU leaders on a draft budget for 2007-2013 have ended in
failure after the United Kingdom rejected a compromise deal on its rebate.
Alongside the UK, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland also rejected
the draft. This was despite attempts by three of the new EU members,
Poland, Hungary and Lithuania, to save the deal by giving up some of their
own budget demands. The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek backed the
attempt, saying that such sacrifices would have been worthwhile. The EU
President Jean Claude Juncker said that the EU was now in deep crisis, but
the Czech prime minister was less drastic, saying that he was convinced an
agreement would be reached sooner or later. He blamed the failure of the
talks on the inability of the union to come to terms with its own
At the summit leaders did agree to a common stance on the ratification of the European constitution, following its rejection by France and the Netherlands. Delegates agreed not to stop the ratification process altogether, but instead to postpone the deadline. The Czech prime minister said that he would favour the end of next year as a suitable date for the Czech Republic to attempt to ratify the treaty. On Saturday afternoon leaders of the three parties in the Czech government met to discuss their future stance on the ratification process.
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.