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Cabinet must return Koloděje chateau to original owner

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The Czech cabinet on Monday lost its chateau in Koloděje, a place where a number of important decisions in Czech history took place after the Velvet Revolution. Prague Municipal Court ruled after 17 years of dispute that the state confiscation of the castle in 1947, based on the Beneš decrees, was illegal. And so the castle needs to be returned to the family of Kumpera that bought it from state in 1937.

The new owner of the castle, Vítězslav Kumpera, proved that his ancestor and last castle owner Antonín Kumpera was neither a traitor nor a collaborator and that he received confirmation of national credibility already in 1945. That is the reason why Beneš decrees were not applicable in his case.

A place for key meetings…

Topolánek’s cabinet does not seem too sorry about the loss of the nice chateau on the eastern outskirts of Prague. It did not use the property much. The chateau maintenance costs CZK 10 millions a year.

“Thanks to the court ruling, the cabinet will, rather elegantly, get rid of one of its unnecessary properties, without having to call for various tenders, which would cause a great havoc,” Petr Nečas, deputy prime minister and labour minister, told Hospodářské noviny yesterday.

The ministers of Topolánek’s second cabinet met at the castle only once during their 21 months in power. Cabinet members agreed on the basic principles of the finance reform there in March 2007.

Previous prime ministers took advantage of the baroque chateau in Koloděje much more than Topolánek. Václav Klaus, Miloš Zeman, Vladimír Špidla and Jiří Paroubek all liked it a lot. And so they chose the baroque building quite often for their most important talks. Often they and their ministers went there to relax and play tennis.

In October 1992 one of the most important talks about the split of Czechoslovakia took place at the Koloděje chateau. Václav Klaus, who was prime minister at the time, agreed on the method of the currency division, the shape of the common state borderline and on common customs with his Slovak counterpart Vladimír Mečiar.

Klaus’ second government met there to discuss help for people affected by the July 1997 floods. And only four months later, Klaus’ ministers decided to sell the IPB bank there.

Zeman’s cabinet endorsed its first budget there in September 1998, and Špidla discussed the finance reform with former head of the Unionists Petr Mareš and former Christian Democratic leader Cyril Svoboda in Koloděje in May 2003. “That’s when we gave way to two smaller parties, and we lost a number of supporters because of that,” Zdeněk Škromach, labour minister at the time, recalls. It was the finance reform, which caused the ČSSD fiasco in the EU elections a year later, causing Špidla to resign.

…and for PMs holidays

“There is a beautiful park in Koloděje, where we met informally. And it was, of course, much easier to find agreement in a very pleasant and relaxed environment,” said Minister Cyril Svoboda, who served as foreign minister in Špidla’s cabinet.

Former Social Democratic leaders Miloš Zeman and Jiří Paroubek liked the Koloděje chateau the most. Each of them liked spending summer holidays in the lodge, built for former communist PM Lubomír Štrougal on the chateau hunting grounds.

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