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.
The Czech government met to debate the country’s position and review its
mandate ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. The Czech Republic
will be the only remaining EU member not to have concluded ratification of
the Lisbon treaty and EU leaders are expected to decide whether or not to
give the Czech Republic an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights,
as requested by President Klaus. There have been indications that the EU
might be willing to consider this option in return for a guarantee that the
Eurosceptic Czech president would then sign the treaty without further
delay, but not all EU members are in favor of such a move.
Matters have been further complicated by the fact that the Czech Constitutional Court on Tuesday postponed by a week a final verdict on whether the EU’s Lisbon treaty is in line with Czech law.
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.