Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross was among the many heads of
government or heads of state on Friday to sign the European Union
Constitution at a special ceremony in Rome. He and Foreign Minister Cyril
Svoboda were second in line to do so following representatives from
Belgium; the signing on Friday took place in the lavish "Orazi and
Curiazi" Hall at the Renaissance Campidoglio Palace, the site where
treaties on the original European Economic Community were signed in 1957.
The newly-signed EU Constitution will now need to be ratified individually by all 25 by EU member states, either by referendum, or by parliamentary vote.
The Czech Republic is among nine EU countries that will hold a referendum.
At a ceremony at Prague Castle on Thursday evening, President Vaclav Klaus awarded state medals to twenty-one individuals. The Order of the White Lion, the highest state distinction, was awarded to WWII veterans Frantisek Fajtl, and Rudolf Severin Krzak, the latter honoured in memoriam. Mr Klaus praised those who openly opposed the Communist system and awarded the Order of T.G. Masaryk to men who were persecuted by the regime. Among those who received orders of merit were Olympic medallist Roman Sebrle, legendary film director Otakar Vavra, and famous Czech actress Jana Brejchova.
The descedents of a Czech family that used to own an engineering firm
nationalised in Prague under the so-called Benes Decrees has been
denied compensation by a Prague court. Four descendents of the original
family, who now live in Canada, were seeking 20 million crowns in
compensation, the equivalent of around 660, 000 euros, for the J.
Kaminecek and Co. firm which was nationalised in 1946. The
nationalisation process in Czechoslovakia at the time affected
companies employing more than 500.
On Friday the Prague court said its ruling followed legislation recognising restitution rights only after the cut-off date of 1948. The family's lawyer has said members plan to appeal.
A new poll conducted by SC&C commissioned by Czech Television suggests
that the right-of-centre Civic Democrats may dominate in upcoming
elections in regional assemblies. If regional elections were held
tomorrow around 31 percent of respondents said they would back the
Civic Democrats, while the Social Democrats would get only19.6 percent
support, followed by the opposition Communist Party at 18.2 percent.
That means that as many as 12 out of 13 regional assemblies could go to the opposition Civic Democrats. At the same time, less than one-third of voters have said they will actually vote.
Regional elections have been planned for November 5th and 6th.
Czechs marked the 86th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia on
Thursday with several events around the country. Although Czechoslovakia
split into two separate states - the Czech Republic and Slovakia - on
January 1st 1993, the national holiday continues to be celebrated every
year in the Czech Republic but is no longer marked in neighbouring
Czech President Vaclav Klaus said October 28th was a very significant holiday as it was a day that the nation's ancestors had anticipated for an entire century. Mr Klaus placed a wreath at the statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, at Prague Castle, and visited his grave in nearby Lany. As has become tradition, the Czech President also received foreign diplomats.
Thirteen people were injured - two seriously - on Thursday morning when two buses collided in northern Moravia. A coach, taking a football team aged between 14-18 years to a nearby game, crashed into a local bus when its brakes failed at the bottom of a hill. Police are still investigating the cause of the accident but believe the bus slid on dry leafs.
The Czech Republic has donated 53,000 pounds sterling to the construction of a monument dedicated to the Royal Air Force pilots who flew during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Of the 2,936 pilots from fifteen countries, eighty-nine were from Czechoslovakia. The Battle of Britain Monument will be unveiled in London some time next year and the project is expected to cost 1.6 million pounds.
Some two hundred members of the extreme-right also marked the foundation of Czechoslovakia with a traditional march through the centre of Prague. The members of the Vlastenecka Fronta, or Patriotic Front, gathered at Prague's Palacky Square, named after nineteenth century historian and politician Frantisek Palacky who is often called the Father of the Czech Nation, and walked to Vysehrad Castle chanting nationalist slogans and criticizing the European Union and the current government.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has accused the cabinet of playing down the importance of the country's approval of the European Constitution. While the official signing ceremony will be taking place in Rome on Friday, the cabinet waited until Wednesday to approve the draft constitution in order to give some time for discussion, Mr Klaus said.
Czech psychiatrist Jan Pfeiffer was among 29 people to receive Time magazine's European 'Hero of the Year' award in London on Tuesday night for his work to reform the Czech mental heath care system. Dr Pfeiffer, a prominent defender of patients' rights, helped lead a campaign to abolish the use of caged and netted beds in Czech institutions.