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Czech Republic: Declaration Signed With Germany

Prague, 21 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus today signed a Czech-German Declaration intended to seal post-World War II reconciliation between the two countries.

The formal ceremony took place in Prague's Lichtenstein Palace. Both countries' foreign ministers also signed the document.

In the accord, the German side admits responsibility for the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands between 1938 and 1945 and the suffering this caused to the Czech people. The Czech side in turn expresses its regret for the brutality of the expulsion of some 2.5 million ethnic Sudeten Germans from the Czech lands following the war in 1945-1946.

Both sides agree to orient their relations toward the future and to establish a common fund to benefit joint cultural relations. Germany also commits itself to fully support the Czech Republic's aim of joining the European Union (EU) and NATO.

Speaking after signing the accord, Kohl appealed to Czechs and Germans to recall their centuries'-old history of good-neighborliness, not to forget the past, but to work together for a harmonious future. Klaus also noted the thousand-year history of Czech-German relations.

He said the declaration, which took 18 months to craft, was not intended to close the book on discussions of past Czech-German relations, including its darker chapters. But Klaus praised Kohl for saying both nations should not remain "hostages of the past." He said the declaration would now be a firm base on which to develop future bilateral relations.

The accord must now be approved by both countries' parliaments. It has been criticized in Germany by families and supporters of Sudeten Germans, and in the Czech parliament by members of the main opposition Social Democrats, the Communists, and far-right Republicans.