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Kohl to Sign Landmark Accord with Czechs Tuesday

PRAGUE (REUTER) - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is due in Prague on Tuesday to sign a landmark joint post-war act of contrition with the Czech Republic which both countries say is important for the further integration of Europe. Kohl and Czech Prime ...

PRAGUE (REUTER) - German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is due in Prague on Tuesday to sign a landmark joint post-war act of contrition with the Czech Republic which both countries say is important for the further integration of Europe. Kohl and Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus will sign the Czech-German declaration, which is meant to help heal the wounds of World War Two and its aftermath and includes explicit German support for Czech membership of Western organisations. In the accord, drawn up after two years of delicate talks, Bonn expresses its sorrow for the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands between 1938 and 1945 and Prague its regret for Czech brutality in the post-war expulsion of ethnic Sudeten Germans. The Czech Republic is the last of Germany`s neighbours without a post-war reconciliation agreement as questions over compensation for the Nazi occupation and the seizure by the Czechs of Sudeten Germans` property have been unresolved. The deal has been criticised by families and supporters of the Sudeten Germans, mostly in Bavaria, and by Czech Communists and far right Republicans. It needs both parliaments` backing. But tying up loose ends in the accord is seen as a pre-condition for Czech membership of the European Union. The Czech Republic is a leading candidate, along with Hungary and Poland, for the next intake for both the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Bonn politicians who closely followed the preparations for the treaty say the decisive factor which persuaded Kohl to override the objections of the Sudeten Germans and their political sponsors, the Christian Social Union (CSU), was his desire to maintain the momentum of European integration. They say Kohl would have found little understanding among EU and NATO partners if he, of all people, had let such a local issue get in the way of integration. But some analysts have suggested the tortuous birth of the declaration may have harmed relations and delayed real debate in the Czech Republic over what EU membership would mean. Some Czech analysts also wonder how strong German support would prove if Prague`s EU membership talks ran into trouble. But French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette, winding up a visit to Prague on Saturday, paid tribute to the accord. In the agreement, Bonn and Prague agree to set up a 160 million mark ($100 million) "Future Fund", mostly with German contributions, to finance joint environmental, historical, scientific and other projects, mainly to benefit victims of Nazi aggression.

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