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Former Czech PM Špidla receives top French award

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Prague, Dec 6 (CTK) – Former Czech prime minister Vladimir Spidla received the top French award, the Order of the Legion of Honour for his contribution to the development of Czech-French relations and European integration at the French embassy in Prague yesterday.
Spidla, 65, (Social Democrats, CSSD) was prime minister in 2002-2004.
In 2004-2010, he was European commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities.
At present, he heads Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s (CSSD) team of advisers.
The award, bestowed on him by the French president, was handed to Spidla by French ambassador Charles Malinas.
He emphasised that Spidla, in his capacity as prime minister, EU commissioner as well as in his later posts, has always defended the EU and promoted European integration.
Malinas praised Spidla’s deep conviction and trust in the EU, which, he said, are needed in the present time of growing Euroscepticism.
Spidla was prime minister when Czechs were deciding on the country’s EU entry. He promoted the accession in spite of the negative stance by former president Vaclav Klaus.
At the ceremony yesterday, Spidla called European integration a miracle.
“The European Union is the only base enabling us to preserve the European life style including all its advantages,” he said.
Malinas mentioned Spidla’s knowledge of French, which he started to learn only after he became prime minister.
“You were perhaps the only prime minister to get up [early] several times a week to learn French,” he said.
In mid-November, the Order of the Legion of Honour went to another aide of Sobotka, state secretary for European affairs Tomas Prouza.
The Czech personalities who received the award in the past include former presidents Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Benes and Vaclav Havel, war veterans Frantisek Fajtl and Frantisek Perina, and General Petr Pavel, former Czech chief-of-staff and current head of the NATO Military Committee. The award also went to many artists and academics including writers Pavel Tigrid and Milan Kundera, philosopher Jan Sokol, film maker Milos Forman, violinist Josef Suk, painters Frantisek Kupka and Alois Mucha, and others.

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