July 5 is a state holiday in the Czech Republic commemorating the saints Cyril and Methodius, two missionaries who came to the Czech lands in the ninth century upon the invitation of Moravian Prince Rostislav, bringing with them the Christian faith and the Cyrillic alphabet, which is still being used in several Slavonic languages. As every year, the celebration peaked in the Moravian pilgrimage town of Velehrad, where Czech and Moravian bishops served mass for some 30,000 believers.
The Prague-based publishing house Albatros, which publishes Czech translations of Harry Potter books has taken legal action against a group of schoolboys who posted a Czech translation of the bestseller's latest edition on a private web site. Only two weeks after the English version was released, the boys translated about one-half of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The official Czech translation, prepared by Albatros, is not due to be released before next February. According to Albatros programme director Ondrej Muller, the Internet version violated copyright law.
The three Czech experts who arrived in Basra, southern Iraq, at the end of the week will begin work in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on Saturday, a spokesman for the 7th Czech field hospital stationed in Basra has said. Engineers Frantisek Fuksa and Jaroslav Reif are experts on technical infrastructure, mainly focusing on energy and water. The former mayor of Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia, Martin Dvorak will help in the establishment of the local administration.
The Polish Catholic conservative party, the League of Polish Families (LPR), has said it fully supports the Czech Republic's stand on the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion and confiscation of property of millions of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia in the years following WWII. According to LPR Chairman Roman Giertych, the party will propose to pass a resolution expressing solidarity to the Czech Republic's decision not to abolish the decrees at the next session of the Sejm, the Polish parliament. The party's initiative follows calls from Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber for financial compensation for some Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II.
The foreign ministers of six central European countries met in the south-eastern town of Buchlovice on Friday to discuss regional cooperation and the results of the European Union summit that was held in June. At the summit in Greece, a draft constitution was presented as an attempt to form a legislative backbone for an enlarged EU after the current fifteen members welcome ten new mainly east European states next May. Fearing the larger states would become more powerful, the representatives of the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia met to find ways of jointly pushing for changes to the first draft constitution. At issue was a proposal for a simpler voting system in which a decision would pass if supported by at least half of all member states, representing at least 60 percent of the EU's population, a departure from the current system that favours small states.
President Vaclav Klaus has released a statement saying he is disturbed by attempts both at home and abroad to reopen what he calls "questions of the past", and will hold special talks with the prime minister and the leaders of the two houses of parliament. Mr Klaus's spokesman said the meeting would be called to examine problems in Czech-German relations and the return of confiscated property, but refused to confirm whether the four would discuss the issue of compensation to Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war. Mr Klaus made the comments after Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber called for compensation for German expellees. Around 2.5 million ethnic Germans - known as Sudeten Germans - were expelled from Czechoslovakia after 1945 in decrees signed by President Eduard Benes.
Police in the north Moravian town of Jesenik say a Roma couple were attacked in their own home on Saturday by a group of three drunken youths. The three ordered the couple to open the door, saying they were policemen. When the couple did so, the man was slashed in the face and chest with a knife and his wife hit in the eye with a cobblestone. A police spokesman said the attack appeared to be racially motivated. Two of the attackers were arrested shortly after the incident and were taken into custody, the third was arrested on Monday. The offenders face up to eight years in prison.
Mr Spidla and his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Schuessel also said they were concerned at the prospect of "centralisation" in the European Union. The two men said it was vital to maintain the present system of equal rights for EU members. Smaller EU countries have expressed concern that the new draft EU Constitution, unveiled at the recent summit in Thessaloniki, gives too much power to bigger countries such as France and Germany. However Mr Spidla welcomed moves to give future EU members a full say in deciding on the future Constitution. The Czech Republic is among 10 countries planning to join the EU in May 2004.
Human rights groups have criticised a court verdict in Karlovy Vary after three police officers received suspended sentences for an attack on a Roma man. The court found the three guilty of beating up Karel Billy in woods near the city in May 2001 and sentenced them to ten months in prison, suspended for two years. Two other officers involved in the incident were set free. The court ruled the attack was not racially motivated. All three defendants and the state prosecutor appealed against the verdict, which was criticised by the government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab.
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