US President George W. Bush is expected to arrive in the Czech Republic at
approximately 8 pm CET on Monday for a visit intended to drum up support
for a US plan to extend its missile defense system to central Europe. The
plan envisages stationing a radar base on Czech territory and interceptor
missiles in neighboring Poland. Both countries have agreed to bilateral
talks on the project but neither has made a firm commitment.
The US president is expected to meet with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. On Tuesday he is scheduled to speak at an international conference: "Democracy and Security: Core Values and Sound Policies. Speaking on the eve of the US president's visit Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said President Bush should be given to understand that the Czech Republic is a US ally, yet it would not be dictated to.
Vlastimil Tlusty, the senior Civic Democrat deputy who has led opposition to the government-proposed financial reform package, said on Monday he was prepared to support the bill in its first reading in Parliament. Mr. Tlusty, a former finance minister, has repeatedly threatened to block the bill's passage through Parliament on the grounds that it is not radical enough. Four or five other Civic Democrat deputies have echoed this view, and the party leadership has exerted a lot of effort to convince them to support the bill, promising that this is merely the first stage of a much broader reform programme.
Opposition leader Jiri Paroubek says in an article published in Monday's Lidove Noviny that the radar project would be acceptable if it were part of NATO s joint defense and if Czechs themselves could decide by means of a referendum where it should be located. In related news, President Klaus on Monday slammed the Social Democrat's cautious stand on the US radar, saying it had been the Social Democrat government which started secret talks on the radar with Washington and had not even bothered to inform the head of state about them.
The Czech media on Monday called for under-fire Czech manager Karel Bruckner to be replaced following the country's dismal Euro-2008 goalless draw against Wales on the weekend. "The team is not on the path towards glory in the European championships but towards the cemetery," said the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper. The Welsh draw is the third in a row of poor Czech performances which began with a 1-2 home defeat against Germany and was followed by a laborious 1-0 victory against minnows Cyprus.
The Czech health authorities are trying to trace four Czechs who took a flight from Prague to Montreal on CSA flight 0104 on May 24th. The four are in a high risk group of passengers who sat close to a US citizen infected with "super TB", a strain of tuberculosis which is extremely hard to treat. The man was placed in isolation on arrival in Montreal. There were 187 passengers on the plane, but only those sitting in the same row with the ill man, one in front and one behind are considered to be most at risk.
Russia has warned it would once again aim its missiles at targets in Europe if the Czech Republic and Poland should agree to host a US radar base and interceptor missiles on their territory. President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying on Sunday that if the American nuclear capability widens across European territory then Russia would give itself new targets in Europe. Mr. Putin acknowledged that Russia's response risked starting an arms race, but he said Moscow would not be responsible for the consequences because Washington had started it.
Austrian opponents of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia have threatened to renew blockades of Czech-Austrian border crossings if their government does not get tough with Prague. The anti-nuclear activists want the Austrian government to take the Czech Republic to court over the alleged violation of the so-called Melk agreement on nuclear safety. The Czech Republic officially protested against the continuing blockades a few weeks ago, and Austria promised to secure free movement of people and goods across the border. Vienna recently commissioned a legal study to ascertain what its chances would be if it sued the Czech Republic at an international court over the Temelin nuclear power plant. The verdict was that Austria would have practically no chance of winning such a case.
Opponents of the US radar base are planning to stage a protest outside the Czech Foreign Ministry at 6pm on Monday evening. Jan Tamas of the "No to Bases Initiative" said that it was important that politicians should hear the voice of those who felt that the US base would harm Czech security interests. "We hope that Mr. Bush hears us too, Tamas said. Over the weekend three Czech villages rejected the US radar base in local referenda and opinion surveys indicate that the majority of Czechs do not want the base on their territory.
On the eve of George W. Bush's visit to Prague, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the US President should leave the Czech Republic with the knowledge that the Czech Republic is an ally of the United States, yet will not allow anyone to dictate anything to it. Speaking in a televised debate on Sunday, Mr Topolanek said that during the Tuesday talks with Mr Bush, he would not link the issue of the US request to station a radar base, part of its anti-missile shield, in the Czech Republic with US visa requirements for Czech citizens.
Police say a twelve-year-old boy fell to his death from a window in Prague's Motol hospital on Saturday. The boy fell from a 30-metre height and doctors were unable to save his life. Police are investigating the death as a case of suicide. TV Nova said the boy came to the hospital with his mother to visit his four-year-old sister. All of a sudden he jumped out of a window, TV Nova said.