The US missile defense shield which Washington would like to deploy jointly in the Czech Republic and Poland has become a matter of intensive debate and consultations. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is to discuss the US missile defense project with NATO and EU officials in Brussels on Monday and the issue also tops the agenda of President Klaus' three week visit to the United States. President Klaus, who leaves for the US on Sunday, is to hold talks with US Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Jiri Menzel's new film "I served the King of England" received four Czech Lion Awards and was voted film of the year at the prestigious Czech Lion Awards ceremony hosted by the Czech Film and Television Academy on Saturday night. I served the King of England is the director's sixth adaptation of works by Bohumil Hrabal and it recently won the International Federation of Film Critics Award at the Berlinale 2007 Film Festival.
The outcome of a poll conducted by the STEM agency indicates that the majority of Czechs are opposed to hosting a US radar base on Czech territory. Seventy percent of respondents said they did not want the US radar base in the Czech Republic, thirty percent said they would agree to it. The poll shows that public interest in the matter is exceptionally high.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vondra said in a televised debate on Sunday that the Czech Republic would give a positive reply to the US request to build a radar base on Czech territory. "We will open the way for further talks on the matter - I cannot imagine the government taking a different course of action," Mr. Vondra told viewers. He stressed however that this was merely another step in negotiations and did not legally commit the Czech Republic to hosting the US radar base. That decision would be made by Parliament sometime next year.
The police have arrested three men on suspicion of having attempted to bribe a key witness in the case of Regional Development Minister Jiri Cunek who is accused of corruption. The key witness is the minister's former secretary Marcela Urbanova, who claims she saw him take a half a million crown bribe while he was still mayor of Vsetin. She told the police that the men in question allegedly approached her with an offer of money if she agreed to change her testimony in favour of her former boss. Jiri Cunek is the first government minister to be prosecuted in office. He refuses to resign despite repeated calls for him to do so.
The Chairman of Parliament's Committee for European Affairs Ondrej Liska has said he would like to hear a clear stand from the country's EU allies regarding the US missile defense shield. Mr. Liska is a member of the Green Party which has voiced objections to the project on the grounds that it would not address the security needs of the Czech Republic's European allies.
Czech political parties are selecting their candidates for president in next year's presidential elections. President Klaus has announced his decision to seek re-election and it is expected that he will get full backing from the centre right Civic Democratic Party. However he could not hope to win without support from the Christian Democratic Party which is divided over the matter. Only some of its members are willing to support Mr. Klaus, others are looking around for a different candidate. The opposition Social Democrats want to pit a female candidate against Vaclav Klaus and the Greens have said they like the idea. If the Social Democrats find a candidate who would win broad support Mr. Klaus' position would be threatened.
The Czech Catholic Church has agreed to hand over the administration of St. Vitus Cathedral to Prague Castle. The Catholic Church is thus adhering to the ruling of the Supreme Court according to which the cathedral belongs to the state. This is yet another twist in a thirteen year long legal battle between the Church and state over ownership rights. The Church won the Cathedral back only last June under a ruling by the Prague City Court but has now had to relinquish its right to it. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said the Church would consider taking the legal battle to a European court.
President Klaus is to travel to the United States on Sunday for a three
week visit which is expected to cover a number of outstanding issues in
bilateral relations. His talks with US top officials will focus
primarily on the US plan to build a US missile defense shield in the
Czech Republic and Poland and the lifting of visa requirements for
Czechs traveling to the United States. The Czech Republic has promised
to give Washington an official response within a month on whether the
country would be prepared to host a US radar base on its territory.
Although the final decision will be made by Parliament, the governing coalition is divided over the matter. The Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats support it, but the Green Party objects to the fact that the defense project does not involve the country's NATO allies.