Prime Minister hails EU accession

Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTK

Just before the celebrations started, the Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, together with representatives of the EU delegation to Prague, including its head Ralf Dreyer, appeared before the public at a final press conference before they proceeded to take part in the celebrations in the centre of Prague. Radio Prague's Pavla Horakova has just come back from the press conference.

Vladimir Spidla,  photo: CTK
Pavla, just hours before accession, what can actually be said on the topic of accession that we haven't heard before?

Well, Dita, the press conference had a predominantly celebratory tone and all the participants emphasised the historic importance of the accession of the Czech Republic and the other nine countries to the European Union. As the head of the EU delegation to Prague, Ralf Dreyer, put it "after all the "nitty-gritty" discussions about structural funds, transitional periods, legislative compliance we should never lose sight of how far we have come." Mr Dreyer went on to congratulate the Czech Republic, as well as the old member states and the other newcomer states on this historic achievement.

"In fourteen hours, the Czech Republic will join the European Union. This is a truly historic occasion. An occasion for the Czech people to be extremely proud in their nation's history. I congratulate the Czech people on their vision and their courage in embracing the opportunities the European Union offers. This equally goes to all member states, old member states and the other new member states."

The Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, too, emphasised the historic significance of the 1st of May, 2004 and said that by joining the EU the Czech Republic's sovereignty and its ability to defend its interests will be strengthened. He also said he was sure that the Czech Republic would fully participate in the development of the European Union and that it would contribute to reinforcing the European identity. Because, as Mr Spidla said, "there is such a thing as a European identity". He also found time to recap some of the things that will change for Czechs as of Saturday.

"There will be no customs checkpoints at the borders, Czechs won't need any special driver's licences to be able to drive abroad. Any child in the Czech Republic will be able to study at any European university under the same terms as the locals. And Czech will become one of the official languages of the European Union which means all documents will be translated into Czech."

Pavla, it has often been pointed out that Czechs are indifferent if not sceptical when it comes to joining the EU? Was that mentioned at the press conference held on the eve of the Czech Republic's EU accession?

Well, Ralf Dreyer, the head of the EU delegation to Prague - which by the way will cease to exist on Saturday as a diplomatic mission - commented on that fact but, rather surprisingly, not in words of criticism.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you certainly do not expect me to be a Euro-sceptic or a Euro-realist. But I share the words. The Czech Republic is a democracy and the European Union consists of democratic states. European democracy is living on this basis. And democracies need realistic and sceptical citizens and I wish that this be the case in the Czech Republic, too."