Eight Cuban dissidents and former political prisoners arrived in Prague on Sunday to meet politicians and other Czech personalities supporting human rights around the world. The Cubans will meet with former Czech president and dissident Vaclav Havel, Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, members of the Czech Parliament, and had lunch with Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Vosalik. According to Mr Vosalik, the Czech Republic is willing to finance a campaign that would promote democracy in Cuba from the foreign ministry budget meant for international help. After a meeting with the Chairman of the main opposition Civic Democrats, Miroslav Topolanek, the group was assured that the Czech Republic would continue to support its cause, even if a new government headed by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats was formed. Among the dissidents are three former political prisoners. They were invited to Prague by the Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need, which has been supporting human rights activists fighting against the totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-Wook, has arrived in Prague for a two-day trip to the Czech Republic. Mr Lee Jong-Wook, who is from the Republic of Korea, met with the recently appointed Czech Health Minister Jozef Kubinyi shortly after his arrival to discuss the state of the Czech health sector and exchange ideas for a suitable national health policy plan. After visiting a TBC unit in Prague, he stated that the Czech Republic had done well to fight tuberculosis and could play a major role in helping neighbouring countries that are worse off combat the disease. Mr Lee Jong-Wook is yet to visit the Czech Parliament, hold talks with the chair of parliament's health committee, as well as meet former Czech president Vaclav Havel.
The Czech Republic's state budget deficit grew to 38.1 billion Czech crowns from 7.82 billion in March. At the same time last year, it had a deficit of 64.4 billion crowns, the Finance Ministry announced on Monday. The widening of the deficit in April was mainly due to a state contribution to building societies which amounted to 14.8 billion crowns. The ministry expects the full-year deficit to reach some 115 billion crowns.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has arrived in Beirut for a three-day
official visit to Lebanon. Accompanied by his wife Livia, Mr Klaus visited
the National Museum, and met speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih
Birri and Government Chairman Rafik Hariri. On Monday night, the Czech
presidential couple attend a festive dinner, organised in their honour by
Mr Klaus's counterpart Emile Lahoud. The Czech President will also be
giving a lecture at the American University of Beirut and hopes to do some
sightseeing in the Lebanese capital before leaving for Cyprus on
Wednesday, where he is scheduled to stay for two days.
The Czech Republic has maintained diplomatic relations with Lebanon since 1947. The annual trade balance between Lebanon and the Czech Republic has decreased steadily in the last five years from 55 million dollars to 33 million dollars this year, largely favouring Prague, according to official figures. Lebanon mainly imports food, agricultural and chemical products as well as paper, milk, textiles, cars and crystal from the Czech Republic while its exports include agricultural, chemical and mineral products.
The week-end celebrations commemorating the famous Czech composer Antonin
Dvorak on the one hundredth anniversary of his death culminated on Sunday
with a series of concerts in Prague. At five different venues, four of
Prague's best orchestras and a number of soloists pay homage to Antonin
Dvorak, who died on May 1, 1904, at the age of 62 years.
An exhibition in Prague's Rudolfinum Gallery also celebrates the life and works of the Czech composer, giving visitors the one-time opportunity to view the original score of Dvorak's New World Symphony on Sunday. The manuscript is usually stored in a safe. Dvorak, whose music has reached many, partly thanks to his incorporation of folk music into his works, wrote his "New World Symphony" (Symphony No. 9: From the New World) in the United States. Many classical music lovers argue it is his most recognizable work.
Prague's Municipal House also opened an exhibition on Sunday called the Sacred Works of Antonin Dvorak, featuring him as a Christian and the author of spiritual works. The exhibition is part of the "Tribute to Antonín Dvo"ák 2004" project and was launched by a concert featuring his Stabat Mater called "Dvo"ák Spiritual", which will be held in Smetana Hall. Among the main exhibits are several restored original music scores, both handwritten sketches and finalized versions. Other exhibits include the first editions of some of Dvo"ák's works published by Simrock in Berlin and Novello in London, examples of his correspondence, reviews, period photographs and pieces of art illustrating the spiritual climate of the period. The exhibition is under the patronage of Catholic Church Primate and Prague Archbishop, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk.
The world-famous Gypsy Kings hold a concert at Prague's T-Mobile arena on Sunday, as the last band to perform at the United Islands of Prague music festival. The four-day festival began on Thursday and saw 130 bands from 19 countries perform at ten islands and various other venues in Prague. Visitors were able to enjoy folk, rock, blues, jazz, techno, and world music. Participating artists included Finland's Leningrad Cowboys, Britain's Levellers, and Spain's world music performer Mercedes Peon. With the exception of the Gypsy Kings concerts, tickets to all activities cost a symbolic 1 Euro, or 33 Czech crowns, in celebration of EU enlargement.
Eight Cuban dissidents and former political prisoners arrived in Prague on Sunday to meet politicians and other Czech personalities supporting human rights around the world. The Cubans will meet with former Czech president and dissident Vaclav Havel, Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Vosalik, Senate Chairman Petr Pithart and members of the Czech Parliament. They were invited to Prague by the Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need, which has been supporting human rights activists fighting against the totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba. The dissidents, who now live in the United States, are expected to stay in the Czech capital until Saturday.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach has confirmed that workers from the enlarged EU will face no restrictions in the Czech Republic. Minister Skromach said that that the country would welcome all EU citizens who wish to live and work here, but that it would take steps to prevent people from abusing the country's social system and security benefits. Of the present member states only Britain, Ireland and Sweden have opened their labour markets to the ten newcomers.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla both
addressed the nation on the eve of accession. The Prime Minister
assured Czechs that the country would benefit from EU entry and urged
them to avail themselves of the opportunities opening up. "We are not
abandoning our homeland or replacing it - of our own free will we have
chosen to become a part of the European community," Mr. Spidla said.
"We have much to offer and a great deal to benefit from, I am convinced
that the Czech Republic will not be lost in the EU," he concluded.
President Klaus said EU membership was something that this country had striven for over the past 14 years, and that it would end half a century of isolation, one-sided orientation towards the East and years of disrespect for basic values embraced by the democratic world. Yet he warned Czechs not to get carried away by sentiment, saying that it was vital for the country to learn to move within the framework of EU structures, to make the best of its pre-negotiated position within the union in order to take up its rightful place within the community. The Czech nation must preserve its identity and we must make sure that the balance of advantages and disadvantages of EU membership is in our favour, the President said, adding that he was optimistic that the Czech Republic was ready for the challenge.
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