Berlin/Prague, May 24 (CTK) – Czech Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) will attend the 68th Sudeten German rally in Augsburg in June, he told CTK today, being the highest-ranking Czech politician ever to take part in the annual event.
The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft (SL) promotes the interests of the ethnic Germans who were forced to leave Czechoslovakia, mainly its border regions (Sudetenland), after World War Two.
Last year, Culture Minister Daniel Herman (KDU-CSL) was the first member of the Czech cabinet to officially attend a SL rally.
Belobradek said the main goal of his participation in the Sudeten German meeting is to contribute to a further progress in the reconciliation between Czechs and Sudeten Germans.
Herman followed a similar aim by going to the meeting, held in Nuremberg, last year. In his speech, he accepted the words of regret at what some of the Sudeten German ancestors did in the past, and voiced deep regret at what some of the Czech ancestors did 70 years ago and what thwarted the two ethnic groups’ coexistence lasting for centuries.
SL chairman Bernd Posselt has welcomed Belobradek’s decision, calling it a bold sign of understanding.
“What was a whole for centuries, is finally reuniting again in the heart of Europe,” Posselt wrote to CTK, adding that he wants to continue with the SL’s reform line.
Czech politicians’ reactions to Belobradek’s announcement differed.
Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said Belobradek will not represent the cabinet at the SL event, but he will attend it in his capacity as chairman of the KDU-CSL within his party’s cooperation with the partner Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU).
Rightist opposition representatives Marek Zenisek (TOP 09) and Petr Gazdik (Mayors and Independents, STAN) said they approve of Belobradek’s trip as an accommodating gesture, while the Communists (KSCM) protested against it.
KSCM deputy chairman Jiri Dolejs said the step might stir up the atmosphere of mutual relations between Czechs and Germans.
The KDU-CSL provides support for the SL without having a constitutional mandate to do so. Ahead of the elections, the KDU-CSL is provoking a discussion on whether such a foreign political position is disputable in regard to Czech interests, Dolejs said.
Like Herman a year ago, Belobradek will give a speech at the upcoming SL meeting due on June 3-4.
Two years ago, Belobradek sent a video greeting to the rally, which the participants hailed with an applause.
Relations between Sudeten Germans and the Czech government markedly improved in the past few years, also thanks to the SL’s decision to delete the search for the former German property in the Czech Republic from its statutes.
The Czech side took reconciliatory steps as well. In a speech in Munich in 2013, Czech PM Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) expressed regret at the iniquities inflicted upon Sudeten German in connection with their post-war transfer from Czechoslovakia.
About three million ethnic Germans were transferred from the country after WWII, following its six-year Nazi occupation.
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