A bill stating that the former president Edvard Benes made an outstanding contribution to Czechoslovakia, is to become law. Edvard Benes was president just before and after the Second World War. The bill has divided the Czech Lower House and the Senate, with the latter strongly opposed to it. It has also evoked strong criticism in neighbouring Austria and Germany where some politicians have described it as a slap in the face to the 2.5 million ethnic Germans who were forcibly expelled from post war Czechoslovakia under decrees issued by Benes. President Klaus decided he would neither sign, nor veto the bill, saying that he believed each citizen should be allowed to form his own opinion about historical events.
The Chamber of Deputies has outvoted the Senate's veto on a bill stating that former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes did outstanding service to the state. Several Senators voted against the bill, saying Mr Benes did not deserve a special law in his honour. Some have questioned Mr Benes' commitment to the state, due to his passive stance at the time of the 1938 Munich agreement, which allowed Hitler enter Czechoslovakia, and the Communist take-over in 1948. The bill is yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus, who has the right to reject it and send it back to the lower house.
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has turned down a bill stating that former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes did outstanding service to the state. In a discussion preceding the vote, the senators did not dispute the service that president Benes rendered in establishing an independent Czechoslovakia but many pointed to his disputable role during the period of the Munich crisis in 1938 and during the Communist coup d'etat in 1948. A similar law commemorating the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, was passed in 1930, and according to many senators was intended at the time to remain unique. Appeals to the Senate and the president to reject the bill have also been made by the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft who have long demanded the abolition of the decrees enacted by president Benes that expelled ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War Two. The senators made it clear, though, that their objections were not related to those appeals.
March 7th marked a very important day in Czech history as it was the 154th anniversary of the birth of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founder and first president of an independent Czechoslovakia following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To commemorate the occasion the current Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla paid a visit to his grave. Both consider his legacy to be the most significant in recent Czech history.
During the past few years, the two words "Benes decrees" have been ubiquitous in the Czech media. Most recently the term has been used in connection with the case of Franz Ulrich Kinsky, a member of an aristocratic family with long roots in Bohemia, who has filed a total of 157 lawsuits asking the Czech courts to confirm that he is the rightful owner of large amounts of property which were confiscated from him as a child after the war. The so-called "Benes decrees" that politicians, journalists, lawyers and property claimants frequently refer to,
It is the year 1923. The fifth year of the existence of the young Czechoslovak Republic, a year in which regular radio broadcasts started in Czechoslovakia and the first passenger planes began flying between Prague and Bratislava on a regular basis. In the previous autumn, Alois Rasin had become Czechoslovak Minister of Finance for the second time since the founding of the state in 1918.
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Alois Rasin, a key figure in the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and also the country's first finance minister. He died three weeks after being shot by a young assassin in the centre of Prague - the first political assassination in the fledgling Czechoslovak state. Rob Cameron looks back at the life and premature death of Alois Rasin.
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