Voting in the senate committee on human rights has shown that the senate, as expected, will likely reject a proposed bill recognising Czechoslovakia's second president Edvard Benes' contribution to the Czechoslovak state. Five out of eight committee members voted against the bill Wednesday, indicating the special statute should be reserved for Czechoslovakia's first president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, a view shared by current president Vaclav Klaus. Other opponents of the bill have expressed disapproval the law was put forward by the Communist Party, or expressed disapproval of Mr Benes' role during and after World War II, blaming his policies then of paving the way for the communist take-over of 1948.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda in Geneva, Switzerland for the 60th annual session of the UN Conference on Human Rights, has dismissed inflammatory comments made by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque of Cuba. On Wednesday Mr Roque had harsh words for the Czechs, a reaction to the Czech Republic's past and current condemnation of Cuba's record on human rights. Mr Roque called the Czech Republic a 'contemptible lackey' of the United States and Washington, comments Mr Svoboda dismissed by indicating Czechs knew well what to think of totalitarian regimes. Between 1999 and 2001 the Czech Republic initiated a resolution by the UN commission condemning human rights abuses in Cuba, and currently a four-day event is underway in Prague marking solidarity with political prisoners jailed in Cuba last year.
According to EU commission sources the Czech Republic has found itself dismally behind in the translation of legal documents on European law just over a month before the Czech Republic joins the European Union. The drop-off in translations of binding laws into Czech is allegedly connected with a lack of staff and organisational changes at the government's revision centre, and the Czech news agency CTK has reported that unless the documents are fully translated the laws theoretically need not be legally binding come May 1st, the date of European accession. CTK reports that Czech Ambassador Pavel Telicka is to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla at the weekend.
Senator Vladimir Zelezny, the former head of TV Nova, the Czech Republic's most successful commercial broadcaster, has announced plans to run in elections to the European Parliament in June. Mr Zelezny accepted the ballot for the so-called Independents, the 15th group to announce it will be fielding candidates in the up-coming elections. Mr Zelezny, who was elected to the senate almost two years ago despite facing charges of fraud in relation to his television career, has said if elected he would open a parliamentary office in Znojmo, south Moravia - the base of his senatorial constituency. Voting to the European Parliament will take place on June 11th and 12th. The full list of candidates however is to be submitted by April 6th.
The Czech People in Need Foundation launched a campaign on Monday to commemorate seventy-five Cuban journalists and human rights activists who were imprisoned by the Castro regime last April. Under the Stop Repression in Cuba campaign, seventy-five volunteers represent the prisoners and spend an hour each in a symbolic cell set up on Prague's Wenceslas Square. Among the volunteers are politicians, artists, and journalists including Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares, journalist and former dissident Petr Uhl, and artist David Cerny.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is currently on a two-day visit to Romania aimed at strengthening bilateral political and business relations. At a meeting with his counterpart Adrian Nastase, Mr Spidla offered to help Romania prepare for EU membership by sharing Czech experiences. The two politicians also agreed that there was room for more trade. The Czech government's CzechTrade agency promoting foreign trade used the occasion of Mr Spidla's visit to open its new office in Bucharest. On Tuesday, Mr Spidla plans to meet with members of the Czech community and attend a Czech-Romanian business forum. He is scheduled to leave for Macedonia on Tuesday evening.
Czechs paid tribute to the victims of the Madrid bomb blasts by holding three minutes of silence at noon on Monday. Thursday's attacks on Madrid commuter trains left 200 dead and close to 1,500 injured. On Monday and Tuesday, people can sign a condolence book at the Spanish Embassy in Prague. A solemn mass in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks will also be held at Prague's St Tomas' Church on Tuesday afternoon.
The number of law suits filed by Czech citizens against the Czech Republic with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is on a dramatic rise. A government representative at the European Court, Vit Schorm, told the CTK news agency on Monday that, since 1993, the Czech Republic has spent 17 million crowns on disputes with citizens in the European Court. Compared to the number of suits lodged in 2002, there were some 88% more filed against the country in 2003.Out of the fifteen cases the state has lost, only two have been resolved so far.
The terrorist attack in Madrid will not speed up plans to move the Prague-based headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) out of the city centre. According to Sonia Winter, spokesperson for the US funded station, there are also no plans to tighten security around the building, which sits next to the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square. The Czech government discussed re-locating the building after the September 11 attacks on the United States for fear that attacks against US interests around the world would follow.
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