The Vatican is expecting an official statement from the Czech government on how it sees future relations between the Holy See and the Czech Republic, the spokesman for the Czech Bishops' Conference Daniel Herman said. In May, the lower house of Parliament failed to ratify an already signed agreement on bilateral relations, due to a large majority of votes against the document from the Social Democrats as well as the opposition Communists and Civic Democrats. The Vatican has officially voiced surprise at the rejection of the long-prepared document. But Czech deputies point out the agreement does not resolve controversial issues such as property restitutions and the funding of churches. According to deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares, the government will try to persuade the Chamber of Deputies to approve the agreement between the Czech Republic and the Vatican. With the Czech Republic being one of the last post-communist countries which has not passed an agreement regulating its relations with the Catholic Church, Mr Mares, said it is practically unthinkable not to have relations with the Vatican settled.
The Finance Ministry is not planning to reserve money in the state budget, for emergency cases when an already completed project is not covered by the EU, mainly for the reasons of having violated EU rules and regulations. According to Finance Ministry spokesperson, Eva Novakova, the ministry's decision was made to force individual Czech ministries into processing and approving only the best projects that will guarantee EU funding. Should a project fail to get EU support, it will be up to the ministry responsible to cover the costs involved.
The 38th Karlovy International Film Festival got underway over the weekend, welcoming visitors and film stars from around the world, among them British director Stephen Frears, American actor Morgan Freeman, and Canadian actress Deborah Kary Unger. Czech notables at the festival included Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and Culture Minister Pavel Dostal, who applauded 10 years of festival stewardship by Czech producers Jiri Bartoska and Eva Zaoralova. Two awards for lifetime contribution to cinematography have already been given. The recipients: Stephen Frears, the director of such renowned films as The Grifters and Dangerous Liasons, and Jiri Menzel, the Czech director who won an Oscar in 1968 for his film Closely-Watched Trains.
President Vaclav Klaus has returned from an official trip to Athens, Greece. Mr Klaus attended the Athens Seminar 2003 conference at which he gave a lecture on the relations between the European Union and the United States. On Friday, the Czech president met with his Greek counterpart Costantine Stephanopoulos to discuss bilateral relations as well as the future of the European Union.
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.
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.
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.
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