Prime Minister Paroubek and President Klaus at loggerheads over EU Constitution
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A battle of wills has broken out between the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and President Vaclav Klaus. Mr. Klaus is a strong critic of the EU Constitution and his provocative remarks with regard to the treaty have raised the strongly pro-European Prime Minister's hackles. Mr Paroubek said on Thursday that Mr. Klaus had overstepped his mandate when he criticized the EU Constitution during foreign visits, and made it clear that this would not be tolerated in future.
The President's Office was mortally offended by the tone and suggested that the Prime Minister take the time to study the Czech Constitution. According to the president's office, the Constitution stipulates that the Cabinet and President should mould the country's foreign policy together. Legal experts call it "joint executive powers", although interpretations differ - some legal experts claim it is the government which should have the final word, others say it is a question of reaching consensus. The possibility of a dual interpretation has given rise to similar conflicts in the past. In the years when Vaclav Havel was president it was Mr Klaus who was prime minister, and he often claimed that the president was presenting his own views abroad, rather than those of the Klaus Cabinet.
"It is necessary for all of us in Europe to accept a free and open discussion about the European Constitution as something legitimate, normal and necessary. This has not been the case until now. I am afraid that any criticism of the text of the Constitution is a priori considered as something negative, as something problematic, as something simply wrong."
The Prime Minister says that at home Mr. Klaus is free to say what he likes and that he will refrain from commenting on his views on the EU Constitution in order not to give them more attention than they deserve. Mr. Paroubek said the government would soon offer the public a balanced information campaign and that he trusted the people's judgement. "Czechs are practical, moderate and realistic - I trust they will make the right decision" the Prime Minister said.