The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has welcomed the Czech government's apology for mistreating Sudeten Germans who opposed the Nazi regime and remained loyal to Czechoslovakia during WWII. In a telephone conversation with the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, Chancellor Schroeder described it as "an act of political courage", which was much appreciated. The gesture was directed to a narrow group of Sudeten Germans who were caught up in the violent post-war expulsions despite the fact that they had actively opposed the Nazi regime and never betrayed Czechoslovakia.
Water levels in the north-eastern part of the Czech Republic are subsiding, but many towns remain on flood alert following days of heavy rain. Dozens of people had to be evacuated from their homes on Wednesday after unexpectedly heavy rainfall led to flooding in some areas. The high alert was triggered chiefly by conditions in Ostrava, where the Ostravice river burst its banks during the day and flooded surrounding streets. The flooding also affected the towns of Bohumin, Havirov and Cesky Tesin where many people reported water in their cellars. A huge clean up operation is now underway.
The country's new Gripen fighter jets were sent out on their first mission on Thursday to help a Turkish plane which had lost radio connection with air control. The passenger plane flying from Istanbul to Hamburg was escorted by the Czech pilots to the German border, where it was taken over by German fighter jets. The Czech Republic has leased 12 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden, to replace the outdated Soviet-made Mig 21s.
Four Czechs, one of them a young boy, were killed when their light aircraft crashed in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday night. Police in the Swiss canton of Valais said that all the occupants of the single engine plane were found dead in the wreckage of the Czech registered aircraft, shortly after it crashed near the Simplon mountain pass. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
While the government's decision was welcomed by Sudeten German organisations on Wednesday, it was criticised by President Vaclav Klaus who said the cabinet's step was an erroneous, unnecessary and empty gesture which may harm the Czech Republic. Mr Klaus said that the sensitive historic chapter had been resolved and closed by the Czech-German Declaration, agreed on by the Czech and German governments in 1997. President Klaus also complained that the government and the Foreign Ministry had not consulted him on the statement.
Prince Hamid bin Abdul Sani, a member of Qatar's royal family, who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by a Czech court for sexual abuse of underage girls, was extradited to Qatar and remanded in custody upon arrival on Tuesday night. The Czech Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Abdul Sani could be extradited to face criminal prosecution in Qatar. The court ruling, which is believed to have set an important precedent, complied with an earlier request by Justice Minister Pavel Nemec for Mr Sani to be tried in his homeland. The office of the Qatari supreme state attorney had guaranteed that criminal proceedings would start immediately after Mr Sani's return to Qatar.
The government has agreed to acknowledge the merits of former Czechoslovak
citizens of German nationality who actively stood against Nazism and
remained loyal to the country during the Second World War. The government
also expressed regrets over the wrongs they suffered in post war
Czechoslovakia and apologised for the injustice done to them by the
Communist regime. The proposal of a conciliatory gesture was first put
forward by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek last month.
After World War II, some 200,000 Germans stayed in the then Czechoslovakia, while another 2.5 million ethnic Germans were deported from the country on the basis of the post-war Benes decrees and their property was confiscated. The Germans allowed to stay in Czechoslovakia lost their property, too, and were stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship which was returned to them only after 1953.
Acclaimed Czech director Milos Forman is to direct a film about Spanish grand master Francisco de Goya starring Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman, focusing on one of Spain's most bloody chapters, the Inquisition, the Reuters agency wrote on Wednesday. Called "Goya's Ghosts" the film tells the story of the last years of the Spanish Inquisition, when the Catholic Church tortured and executed suspected Jews, as told by the painter, played by Stellan Skarsgard. The film is Forman's first directing project since 1999's "Man on the Moon" and filming is due to start in September.
Over 14,000 Czechs and 24,000 Slovaks have registered for work in the United Kingdom since May 1, 2004 when the Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union along with eight other countries. According to the latest UK statistics, over 230,000 workers from the new member states have registered in the UK since last May; more than 50 percent of them Poles.
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