“The European Union needs to reform. We need a strong Europe, an alliance of strong member states, where the driving force is the Council of Europe, the member states‘ presidents and prime ministers, rather than a politicized European Commission” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said during celebrations in Warsaw marking 15 years of EU membership.
The meeting at the Royal Palace in Krakow was attended by the prime ministers of countries which joined the alliance in the “big bang” expansion in 2004 as well as others admitted in the past fifteen years. The debate focussed on the achievements and problems of the past years, challenges faced by the EU today and the need for reform.
On May 1, 2004 the EU admitted ten new members: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 and Croatia in 2013.
Czech politicians have been highlighting the importance of Czech membership in the EU, as Czechs mark 15 years in the alliance.
Deputy Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček said the EU had given the country economic and political stability as well as security. “There is no alternative to EU membership and those who say so are lying,” Hamáček said.
“Fifteen years ago today the dream of many generations came true,” Foreign Minister Tomas Petříček wrote on Twitter. “The Czech Republic became a fully-fledged member of the European family of free and democratic nations. Like every family the EU has good days and bad days, but the fate of this family, and our own, is in our hands, that is something we should value highly,” Petricek wrote.
Petr Fiala, leader of the centre-right Civic Democrats said he was proud it was his party which brought the Czech Republic to NATO and the EU. “After 40 long years of totalitarian rule the Czechs returned to the European fold of democratic nations where they belong,” Fiala said.
Demonstrations, political rallies and student gatherings took place around the country on May Day. Political parties drummed up support ahead of the European elections, various movements and groupings highlighted their causes in the big cities and students held their traditional open air festival Majales.
May 1st is also celebrated as the Czech version of St. Valentines Day, with couples observing the tradition of kissing under a cherry tree in bloom to keep their love alive in the coming year.
Police are gearing up for demonstrations of ultra-right groups and anarchists in the Moravian metropolis of Brno. Hundreds of officers and anti-conflict police are out in the streets to prevent skirmishes and maintain law and order. Citizens have been advised to keep out of the city centre in the evening hours.
European Union funds helped build or modernize 975 kilometres or railroads and 495 kilometres of roads in the past 15 years, according to data released by the Czech Transport Ministry on Wednesday.
Subsidies from European structural funds channelled into road and rail development reached 12.2 billion euros or 325 billion crowns. The majority of these projects were part of the trans-European network (TEN-T).
Hrzánský Palace on Hradčany Square and Lichtenštejn Palace on Prague’s Kampa opened their doors to the public on Wednesday offering guided tours on the occasion of the bank holiday.
Both historic buildings serve the Office of the Government and are normally not accessible to the public.
Both palaces have a rich and interesting history and both hosted distinguished residents and guests. The first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, lived in Hrzánský Palace from 1894 to 1896.
Lichtenštejn Palace has hosted Queen Elizabeth, the Spanish King Juan Carlos and his wife Sofia and Japanese Emperor Akihito with Empress Michiko.
Thursday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain and day temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.