On the 25th of September, 1998, another in the jubilee series of honorary doctorates was awarded in the Great Hall of the Carolinum, this time to Professor N. Mitchell, Rector of Trinity College, Dublin and Professor of Classical Studies.
The degree ceremony was attended by the Rector of Charles University, members of his Collegium and other academic dignitaries, and distinguished guests from public, cultural and economic life. Among those who watched the presentation of the doctorate honoris causa there were also members of the government (P. Mertlik, E. Zeman, E. Lansky, I. David, K. Motejl, J.Basta) and, as guest of honour, Her Excellency the Irish Ambassador, Marie Therese Cross.
After the Czech and Irish national anthems had been played, the ceremony started with an address by Prof. Pavel Klener, CU Vice-Rector. He welcomed both Charles University's Irish guests, since Professor Mitchell was accompanied by Professor MUDr. Davis Coakley, Dean of the Medical Faculty of Trinity College, Dubline. Then Professor Mitchell was introduced by Doc. Jaromir Cerny, Pro-Dean of the CU Philosophical Faculty that had proposed the honorary doctorate. He gave a brief account of the studies and academic career of Prof. Mitchell, who teaches ancient history, Roman literature and Latin, and whose scholarly research is focussed on the Roman history of the Republican period.
After the CU rector had given his consent to the award of the honorary doctorate from the rectorial seat, the degree ceremony promotor, Prof. PhDr. Bohumila Mouchova, Director of Greek and Latin Studies (CU Phil. Fac.) accepted Prof. Mitchell's graduation oath and presented him with the doctorate honoris causa "for lifelong work in the field of classical studies" and also with a gold doctoral chain. The ceremony in the Great Hall was followed by the formal opening of the exhibition "Irishmen at the Prague Medical Faculty and in the Czech Lands in the 17th and 18th Centuries" in the Carolinum exhibition rooms.
On the 19th of November 1998, during a two-day official (and as he always adds in interviews, also friendly) visit to the Czech Republic, the French premier Lionel Jospin was welcomed at Charles University where he stopped for a meeting with CU students and teachers in the main lecture-hall of the Philosophical Faculty.
Other members of the French government, such as the Foreign Minister Herbert Vedrine and the Minister of Defence Alain Richarde, were also sitting on the benches among the students and guests. L. Jospin has already been welcomed in Prague in 1991 when he was Minister of Education, and it is interesting to record that he is now the first French Prime Minister to visit Prague since 1937! His realistic attitude to all problems of domestic and foreign polict, and the pragmatism with which he has shifted isological questions into the background and is concentrating on the economy, has met with positive reactions from the majority of the French public who see him as a future president. In view of the fact that he is closely involved in European Union questions, he devoted his speech in the packed CU lecture hall mainly to an account of the current economic, political and spiritual state of the EU. He made a strong impression on the audience as the model of an experienced and intelligent man of "high politics".
On Thursday the 12th of November the Great Hall of the Carolinum was witness to an event of extraordinary significance, when the world-famous Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich was presented with the international Charles IV Prize by the CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly and the Mayor of Prague, Jan Koukal. This is a prize that since 1992 has been awarded jointly by the Prague Municipality and Charles University to outstanding figures in politics, culture or science and scholarship.
Those attending the ceremony included the Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, the Minister of Health Ivan David, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk and other distinguished guests. Mstislav Rostropovich is only the third holder of this prestigious award. The two other laureates, honoured in previous years, are the French philosophy Paul Ricoeur and Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker, former President of Germany. Mstislav Rostropovich was very much moved by the award of the Charles IV Prize and in a short speech emphasized that in the future, too, he would do as much as he could to deserve the honour. The international prize is accompanied by a financial award of two hundred-thousand crowns donated by the Czech Savings Bank, but the Russian musician refused the money for himself and gave a cheque to the CU rector with the requested that it be used for the needs of the university. At the end of the official ceremony Rostropovich played a Sarabande for violoncello by Johann Sebastian Bach to the packed hall. It is intereting that it 1947 Prague was the first foreign city that M. L. Rostropovich visited as a participant in a music competition held as part of the Prague Spring Music Festival. Eight years later he was to be the Deputy Chairman of the jury at the same competition. It was in Prague, too, that he met his wife, the singer Galina Vishnyevskaya. It is for these reasons, too, that the holder of more than forty honorary doctorates from universities all over the work regards the Charles IV Prize as one of the honours that he values the most.
On the 13th of December, 1998, during his official visit to the Czech Republic, the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was welcomed at Charles University by the Rector Prof. Karel Maly and other members of the university leadership. Prof. Maly presented the Spanish premier with a CU 650th Anniversary Jubilee Medal for his contribution to the development of world science, culture and international co-operation.
Jose Maria Aznar and Prof. Karel Maly were the main speakers at the ceremonial meeting. Both focused on the rich history of contacts between the two countries that began nearly ten centuries ago when the Jewish merchand and Spanish diplomat Ibrahim ibn Jacub visited Prague (he described the Czech Lands as "the best lands of the North"). The examples taken from more modern times included above all the interest of Czech writers in Spanish art and literature, reflected in Czech translation of modern Spanish literary and dramatic works, visits to Spain and travelogues. The crown was set on such visits when Karel Capek travelled to Spain and wrote about his impressions of the country. "I feel good here" was the phrase with which the great Czech writer characterized his experience of Spain. Jose Maria Aznar quoted Capek's words and added: "And I feel good to among you." Later he spoke of his high regard for the work of Czech hispanists, the role of Charles University in training them, the personal engagement of the CU rector in the development of Ibero-American studies and the activities of the Institute of Romance Studies at CU's Philosophical Faculty.