A Prague court ruled on Tuesday that the City Hall was wrong to ban a protest march against the possible deployment of a US radar base in the Czech Republic at the end of January. The court said that the reasons cited by the City Hall - namely a possible disruption of traffic and concerns for the protesters' safety - were flimsy and inadequate. The march went ahead despite the ban; police had started investigating it as an illegally held event, but will now have to close the case. The City Hall's decision to ban the event was criticized by the opposition Social Democrats and the Communists.
Around 200 opponents of a US radar base in the Czech Republic held a protest outside the Office of the Government on Tuesday. They unfurled banners and erected tents, saying they were setting up a peaceful anti-radar base. The protesters said their main goal was to convince Czech politicians to let the public decide the matter freely in a national referendum. The radar base would be part of a US missile defense system located jointly in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Echoes of the cold war: that is how some observers characterised Russian President Vladimir Putin recent reaction to US plans to expand its missile defence system in Europe. At a conference in Munich Mr Putin attacked the idea of the missile defence system (which includes a proposed interceptor rocket base in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic), saying such a move could not go unanswered. But what kind of answer might we see?
Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg has dismissed Russian President
Vladimír Putin's criticism of American plans to build a missile defence
system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Speaking at an international
security summit in Munich, Mr Putin had said that the United State's
defence plans were unnecessary and would only precipitate a new arms race
and breed insecurity. Mr Schwarzenberg ironically thanked the Russian
president for his remarks, saying they helped publicise the conference. He
described Mr Putin's speech as harsh and said that the Russian president
was now adopting a position similar to that of the former Soviet Union.
The foreign minister added that Mr Putin's remarks only served to
underline the need for NATO to continue expanding.
If the American missile defence plans are approved by the Czech parliament, it will see the construction of a radar base in the Brdy region south of Prague as part of a new missile defence system in Europe.
Russian President Vladimír Putin has once again attacked American plans to build a missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Speaking at an international security summit in Munich, Mr Putin said that the United State's defence plans were unnecessary and would only precipitate a new arms race. Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg described the Russian president's speech as harsh and said that Mr Putin was now adopting a position similar to that of the former Soviet Union. If the American missile defence plans are approved by parliament, it will see the construction of a radar base in the Brdy region south of Prague as part of a new missile defence system in Europe.
Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova has officially informed her NATO counterparts about the U.S. request to the Czech Republic to build a radar base on its territory. A spokesperson for the Czech Defence Ministry told the press that Ms Parkanova had told an informal meeting of foreign ministers from NATO countries that the USA had asked the Czech Republic to start negotiations on the issue. He added that the ministr will also keep the Czech Republic's allies informed of further developments,
The Social Democrat's central executive committee has also confirmed that it is against the building of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. The shadow minister for foreign affairs Lubomir Zaoralek told the press that the party would only change its position on the base if the base were to become part of a NATO defence system. He also said that the Social Democrats would be pushing for a national referendum on the issue.
In response to calls that such a decision should be made on the basis of a national referendum, ex-president Vaclav Havel said in an interview for Tuesday's Pravo that key decisions relating to national security should be made by Parliament. At present only the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democratic Party have openly supported the US radar base. The Communists are strictly against it and the Social Democrats and the Green Party have serious reservations about it, based on the fact that it is a US project which would not adequately address Europe's defence needs.
Trokavec, a small village south-west of Prague which lies close to the
projected site for a future US radar base, has called a local
referendum on the issue. The village mayor Jan Neoral said that all of
the inhabitants were strongly against the US base and he felt it was
right that the local community should make its voice heard. The
referendum is to take place on March 3rd. Other small towns in the
vicinity are allegedly considering a similar move. They complain about
a general lack of information and local inhabitants are fearful of the
implications of living in close proximity to a radar base.
A decision on whether to allow the United States to build a radar base in the Czech Republic should be made by Parliament in the spring of next year. The governing Civic Democrats have strongly opposed calls for a national referendum on the issue, on the grounds that this is not the norm elsewhere in the world.
The Russian ambassador to Prague Alexej Fedotov on Tuesday indicated that Russia's negative stand with respect to the planned US radar base could change. Following talks with the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek, ambassador Fedotov said that Russia wanted certain questions answered and that serious negotiations could change its position. This is the first sign of flexibility from Moscow after Russian President Putin slammed the US anti-missile project as an attempt to "change the balance of forces in Europe" saying that Russia would take reciprocal measures. The leader of the Czech Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek also indicated that his party's negative stand to the base could change if it were to become part of a "collective security" agreement.