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Media invite: Czech President Václav Klaus to speak at opening of UCL's new SSEES building

5 October 2005

His Excellency Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic , will deliver the keynote address of his visit to the United Kingdom at a ceremony to open the new building of the UCL School of Slavonic and East European S tudies (UCL SSEES). Following President Klaus's address, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University of London, will unveil the stone to mark the formal opening of the new building. The ceremony begins at 2.30pm on Wednesday 19th October 2005 at the Chemistry Auditorium, Christopher Ingold Building , Gordon Street , UCL, London WC1.

UCL SSEES is the largest national centre in the UK for the study of Central, Eastern and South-East Europe and Russia . It was inaugurated on 19 October 1915 by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who later became President of Czechoslovakia. Masaryk marked the event with a public lecture entitled “The Problem of Small Nations in the European Crisis.”

Its status grew through its role in World War II, when it was called upon by the Foreign Office, who used its expertise in the Slavonic/East European region to assist with vital information gathering. Partly as a consequence, the government made financial provision after the war to enable the School to expand its studies in the region. SSEES merged with UCL in 1999.

The new building is set on the last significant open plot in the Bloomsbury district of London. It has been designed and built to a unique ‘green' specification, and is intended as a model of environmentally friendly construction, with its use of ecologically friendly cooling and heating systems.

President Klaus says: “The original SSEES building was inaugurated 90 years ago by the first president of my country, Tomáš Garigue Masaryk. The title of his public lecture "The Problem of Small Nations in the European Crisis" is fascinating. It is more than appropriate to raise the same issue this time again. I will be motivated to do it because I see a similar non-negligible problem in Europe just now."

Professor George Kolankiewicz , Director of UCL SSEES, says: “The presence of HE President Klaus is symbolic of the close ties that SSEES has developed and maintained over the years not only with the Czech Republic but with other countries of the region. It emphasises the reciprocal importance of SSEES to the countries which it studies as well as the value that SSEES places on the interest and support which it derives from those countries. Recent UK government initiatives have underlined the importance of language-based research across the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences as practised at SSEES.”

Notes for Editors

  1. All media wishing to attend the launch should contact Dominique Fourniol in the UCL media relations office, d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk, or 020 7679 9728, by Wednesday 12 October. A ll journalists wishing to attend on the 19th must arrive by 2.30pm . Requests for images and interviews (except for those concerning President Klaus) should also be made to the UCL media relations office.
  2. Queries about the visit and programme of President Klaus should be directed to David Frous at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, on 020 7243 7917 or David_Frous@mzv.cz.
  3. Queries about the design of the building, or the architects, S hort & A ssociates, should be addressed to Frances Sloan, Sloan Associates , on 01502 478063 or frances@sloanassociates.co.uk