Former Czech president Václav Havel will open the plenary session of the European Parliament on November 11, with a speech on the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism in central and eastern Europe, EP President Jerzy Buzek’s spokeswoman Inga Rosinska told the ctk news agency on Wednesday. In a symbolic gesture MEPs have also invited a group of 89 young people –all born in 1989 – to the plenary session. The event is to be accompanied by an exhibition of photographs documenting the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.
Some 200 opponents of the Lisbon treaty used the day of Czech statehood to voice their opposition to the country’s foreign policy course, claiming that by ratifying the document the country was handing over its independence and sovereignty to Brussels. The protesters marched through the city centre brandishing slogans such as “We don’t want Lisbon”, “We don’t want Brussels” and “Lisbon is Munich”. There we shouts of “long live President Klaus” and “don’t give in –we are with you ”.
At a gathering of foreign diplomats held on occasion of the anniversary, President Václav Klaus said that after twenty years of democracy the Czech Republic faced a tough decision –whether to give up part of its sovereignty to European institutions. President Klaus said that while he was strongly opposed to the Lisbon treaty he was aware of the political reality of the present day and the fact that the Czech Republic did not exist in a vacuum. He also explained why he had asked for an opt-out so late, saying that until Ireland’s repeat referendum he had not considered it relevant.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer told journalists in Prague on Wednesday that President Klaus had assured him in person he would sign the Lisbon treaty if the Constitutional Court ruled it was in line with Czech law and if the Czech Republic was granted an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights attached to the treaty. The opt-out is to ensure that Germans expelled from former Czechoslovakia after WWII cannot seek to reclaim their property in European courts. Mr. Fischer said that the president has assured him he would have no other conditions and would not further delay the treaty’s ratification.
A ČSA plane bound for Ljubljana, Slovenia was forced to turn back for an emergency landing at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport on Wednesday due to technical problems. The plane carrying twenty passengers and four crew turned back just 15 minutes after takeoff due to a suspected oil-leak in one of the motors. Although firefighters and ambulances were on standby, the plane landed safely on the airport’s main runway.
The Czech Association of Freedom Fighters has come out strongly in support of President Klaus’ demand for an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights attached to the Lisbon treaty. The association’s chairwoman Anděla Dvořáková warned against the growing influence of Sudeten Germans in the border regions, saying that the Czech president was right to be concerned about potential property law-suits. Ms Dvořáková said the president was to be thanked for defending the country’s interests and slammed the former government for not doing its job properly.
Celebrations and commemorative events have been held around the country to mark the 91st anniversary of the founding of an independent Czechoslovak state in 1918. Leading politicians, members of Parliament, cultural figures and war veterans attended a traditional ceremony at the national memorial on Prague’s Vítkov Hill, paying homage to those who fought for the country’s independence and contributed to its development. Among those present were the Czechoslovak Union of Freedom Fighters and the Union of Czechoslovak legions.
Unknown vandals are reported to have damaged a memorial to Holocaust victims in the town of Teplice. A spokesman for the local Jewish community said he had found the memorial covered with spray paint on Wednesday morning. There were no abusive inscriptions. Police investigating the incident say it is not yet clear if the act was racially motivated. The memorial was raised on the site of a former synagogue burned down by the Nazis. Some 5,000 Jews formed ten percent of the town’s inhabitants before WWII. Most of them died in concentration camps.
Some two hundred people attended the unveiling of a memorial in Prague to democratic politician Milada Horáková, who was executed by the communist regime after a show trial in 1950. The memorial is located near Pankrác prison where she and other political prisoners were jailed and executed. Although Horáková’s name and legacy evokes great respect some people refused to attend the unveiling ceremony after it emerged that the Communist Party had also made a financial contribution to the memorial. The Political Prisoners Confederation said it was an outrage that the communists who had murdered her should have been allowed to do so. The memorial’s construction was initiated by the Milada Horáková Club and two marginal parties, the Czech National Socialist Party and the Masaryk Democratic Party, who said that lack of money had forced them to accept a financial gift from the communists.
The celebrations of Czech statehood will traditionally culminate with a special ceremony at Prague Castle at which President Václav Klaus is to hand out over 20 state distinctions. The list of names remains secret but there has been speculation in the media that the choice of personalities will reflect the twentieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Six hundred people have been invited to Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall for Wednesday’s awards ceremony.
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