President Vaclav Havel, in his traditional New Year's address to the Czech people, has looked back at the previous year as well as the decade of the existence of the Czech Republic. President Havel said he felt the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia had been a positive move, allowing both nations to experience their own statehood in order to learn to cooperate with others within larger and more powerful units. Among the positive things that had happened in the past decade, Mr Havel mentioned the Czech Republic's membership in NATO, saying the country was now better-secured than ever before in the entire long history of Czech statehood.
Looking back at the past year, Mr Havel emphasised the fact that Prague had hosted a historic NATO summit, saying the event had once again instilled Prague with the authority due any city where history was written. President Havel also said that in 2002 the country's long efforts had been crowned with success when it had been - together with nine other countries - invited to join the European Union. President Havel expressed hope that this year's referendum on EU membership would meet with great interest among citizens, and that they would realise the reach of their decision. Mr Havel also said the Czech Republic had undergone a difficult test during the devastating August floods. He thanked all those who participated in saving human lives and property and those who helped to remedy the devastating effects of the floods. He said it would be good if the experience helped people to realise they were not masters of the planet but merely its part.
Finally, President Havel said the Parliament would soon elect a new President. He said he trusted his successor would be a wise, open-minded and responsible person, a creative partner to the current political representation, one in whom all law-abiding citizens would see their ally.
A mountain hike on the Czech-Slovak border on Tuesday was the only public commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the break-up of Czechoslovakia.
It occurred on January 1, 1993, just three years after the Velvet Revolution ended four decades of communist rule over Czechoslovakia. The anniversary passed quietly in the two countries. The only publicised event was the annual trek to the top of Velka Javorina, a peak in the White Carpathians and the border region's highest mountain, sponsored by the Czech and Slovak Brotherhood Celebration Committee.
Nicholas Winton, a former London Stock Exchange clerk, known as Britain's "Oskar Schindler", received a knighthood in the New Year's honours list on Tuesday for his key role in rescuing hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis in German-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. Nicholas Winton, aged 93, declined to talk of his work at the time, about which his late wife never found out. Mr Winton rescued almost seven hundred young people out of Czechoslovakia. The Home Office insisted that he find adoptive parents for each of the children, but he nevertheless managed to send children on eight trains.
A fire swept through the top floors of an apartment building in Prague 8 on Tuesday night killing an elderly woman whose trash-filled flat fuelled the blaze. The owner of the flat died in the fire, nine people were injured and about fifty had to be evacuated after the fire began. Fire fighters spent all night battling the blaze which spread from the sixth to the eleventh floor. Sub-zero temperatures and ice hampered their efforts.
Thursday is expected to be cloudy to overcast, with daytime temperatures ranging from four to eight degrees Celsius.
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