Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland have refused to sign an agreement linking them with next year's expanded European Union of 25 states because of open disputes with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Diplomats said the three countries walked away from the pact after Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic crossed swords over the controversial Benes decrees under which 2.5 million Sudeten Germans were expelled from the country after World War II. Liechtenstein, says its citizens also suffered from the confiscation of land and loss of property and has insisted that the Czech Republic must recognize it as a sovereign state which was a neutral country during the war. This would entitle Liechtenstein to compensation claims. Norway and Iceland joined the protest in a show of solidarity.
In response to the news, which has thrown a damper on hopes of creating a large area of free trade, trade, finance and travel in Europe, the Czech Foreign Ministry said Prague would not make any concessions with regard to the post war Benes decrees. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that he hoped Lichtenstein could be persuaded to sign the agreement in due course, but that in the meantime its decision would not have significant risks for the Czech economy. The Czech Republic is slated to join the EU in a big bang expansion in May of 2004.
A Prague-based Czech-German foundation has rejected a demand for millions of euros in compensation to ageing Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII. Representatives of the Sudeten German expellees have expressed regret over the decision. The head of the Sudeten German Association Bernt Posselt said it was a wasted opportunity to heal old wounds and see justice done. The Association had asked the Czech-German Foundation to release some 4,5 million euros in compensation to some 2,000 Sudeten Germans. Although Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he would welcome the initiative he stressed that the foundation must decide independently of politicians. The demand for compensation still angers many Czechs, who argue that the expulsions were a consequence of the Nazi invasion and numerous atrocities committed on Czech soil during WWII.
The former Czech president Vaclav Havel received the country's highest state distinctions in Parliament on Tuesday evening. Mr. Havel was awarded with the Order of the White Lion and the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk for his life long contribution to democracy and human rights in the Czech Republic. Among those present were Vaclav Havel's wife Dagmar, his close friends and former Prague Castle employees.
The Dalai Lama said earlier this week that he would talk to former Czech President Vaclav Havel about forming a group of prominent thinkers to lead a quest to stop conflicts escalating into wars. During a visit to Paris, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader suggested joining forces with fellow Nobel Laureates including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to try to prevent wars. "If we created a group of thinkers and spiritual people who are respected around the world but don't represent a country, a continent or economic interests, I think we could be listened to," the Dalai Lama told a news conference.
Wednesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with day temperatures between 7 and 11 degrees Celsius.
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