Negotiations have been officially launched between the United States and
the Czech Republic on the possible deployment of a missile defence radar
on Czech territory. The first round of talks, which started at the Czech
Defence Ministry on Thursday, is focused on an agreement covering the
deployment of the US missile radar in the Czech Republic. The second
round, planned for May 22 at the country's Foreign Ministry, will focus on
the radar's construction, maintenance, and security. The US delegation is
headed by State Department special emissary Robert Loftis. The Czech
delegation is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar and head of the
Defence Ministry's department for defence policy and strategy, Ivan
The United States announced plans in January to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile defence radar in the Czech Republic as part of its missile shield aimed to counter possible threats from "rogue states", such as Iran or North Korea. In early June, US President George W. Bush will arrive in Prague to discuss the issue with the Czech authorities.
The controversial exhibition "Bodies" will remain on show in Prague despite growing protests. The Prague city authorities who received an official complaint about it from a Prague resident referred the matter to the police who concluded that it did not violate any laws or regulations. The exhibition of human cadavers, their parts and internal organs has come under fire from some politicians, Catholic priest Tomas Halik as well as the Czech Anatomical Society. Critics say that this treatment of human remains is deeply degrading. The exhibition will remain on show at Prague's Lucerna Palace until October.
The coalition Christian Democrats have said they will announce the name of their candidate for next year's presidential elections in the autumn, after discussions within the party. Individual party members have said in the press the party might consider nominating former Charles University rector Ivan Wilhelm, or former President of the Czech Academy of Sciences Helena Illnerova. Some have also mentioned Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova, deputy chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Party.
Anti-nuclear activists from neighbouring Austria have announced they will again stage blockages at 12 out of the 16 border crossings between the Czech Republic and Austria on Friday afternoon. The last such protests took place two weeks ago when the activists blocked 10 border crossings. The protesters want the Austrian government to file an international lawsuit against the Czech Republic over an alleged breach of agreements on the safety of the Czech nuclear power station Temelin.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said he will press the government
in August to set January 1, 2012 as the date for Czech adoption of the
single European currency. Mr Kalousek said on Thursday that entry into the
eurozone was a political decision and as such should have a fixed deadline.
Mr Kalousek described the state of the Czech public deficit as "the
only real practical barrier" to euro adoption in 2012. The Czech
government in April approved far-reaching reforms slashing taxation and
public spending, paving the way for a possible adoption of the single
European currency as early as 2012.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said last month that a euro adoption date could be fixed after the spending reform package is approved by parliament. The lower house is expected to discuss the package in June with the fate of the fragile centre-right coalition government, which does not have a guaranteed majority in the lower house, hanging on the outcome.
The EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities, Vladimir Spidla, said in Prague on Wednesday that the European Commission was preparing a strategy to combat discrimination of women at the workplace. Mr Spidla, who is a former Czech prime minister, said that in the European Union women earned on average 15 percent less than men, even when they shouldered the same responsibilities. The situation in the Czech Republic is reported to be even worse with women earning one fifth less money than men.
The ruling Civic Democratic Party has announced it will support the re-election of President Vaclav Klaus in next year's elections. Mr Klaus, the Civic Democrats' honorary chairman, founded the party in 1991 and chaired it until late 2002. He was elected president in 2003. The Civic Democrats, however, do not command enough votes in parliament to secure Mr Klaus's re-election and will have to seek support from their coalition partners. The coalition Greens have made it clear that they do not want Mr Klaus's re-election and will field their own candidate.
The "No to Bases" civic initiative demands that the talks
between the Czech Republic and the United States on the possible
stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory, which started on
Thursday, be terminated. The initiative's representative Rudolf Prevratil
says the centre-right coalition cabinet of Mirek Topolanek has no mandate
to conduct the talks. "No to Bases" points out that most Czechs
are against the construction of a radar base in the Czech Republic,
according to polls. The initiative demands that a referendum be held on
the issue. It plans to hold a rally against the radar base on Prague's
Wenceslas Square on Saturday, May 26, followed by a march through the city
The radar base opponents claim that the base will stir up new arms races, threaten the Czech Republic's security and cooperation in Europe. They also say the government focuses on technical issues only, while ignoring fundamental questions such as the command of the base and its impact on the international political situation.
Czech consumer price inflation rose to 2.5 percent in April on a 12-month comparison after 1.9 percent in March, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday. In April, prices rose by 0.7 percent compared with March. March's monthly rise was 0.3 percent from the February figure. April's 12-month figure represents "the biggest rise in prices registered over the last seven months," the office added, explaining that the jump was mainly caused by a 4.8 percent hike in the cost of food products and non-alcoholic drinks. Analysts said they expect the annual inflation rate to ease to around 2.2 percent.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that if the blockades do take place on Friday and traffic is halted at the border crossings, he will raise the matter with his Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik, most likely at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. Czech officials have repeatedly said the blockades amount to breach free movement of persons - one of the fundamental freedoms granted by the EU.
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