Gay rights activists in the Czech Republic have spoken of their delight at the number of gay and lesbian couples that have registered their partnerships.

The central European state, which joined the EU three years ago, became the first former Soviet Bloc country to allow gay unions.

Since the new laws were adopted in July last year, over 200 gay unions have been registered.

Although the Czech Republic is regarded as one of the more liberal of the newer EU members, the partnership legislation proved controversial.

It was rejected by the country’s Parliament four times and when it did finally pass in December 2005, it was vetoed by President Vaclav Klaus.

Jiri Hromada, president of pressure group Gay Iniciativa, said on a statement on their website that, “our organization will be dissolved after 17 years, because it has achieved its essential objectives.”

Registered partnerships grant some of the rights of a marriage, including, inheritance, hospital, spousal privilege, and alimony rights, but do not allow adoption, widow’s pension, or joint property rights.