Ahead of the US president’s arrival, some 300 opponents of the plan to site a US tracking radar on Czech territory held a protest gathering on Prague’s Palach Square and the Legionaries’ Bridge on Saturday, unfurling a banner that read “Yes, we can - say no to the radar”. More demonstrations are expected on Sunday. Opinion polls suggest that the majority of Czechs are against the idea of hosting a US radar on Czech soil.
US President Barack Obama has arrived in Prague for an EU-US summit hosted
by the Czech presidency on April 5th. The President and First Lady were
welcomed at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport by President Vaclav Klaus and
outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek before being taken to Prague’s
Hilton Hotel where they will be spending the night.
On Sunday morning President Obama will be received with honours at Prague Castle where he will briefly hold talks with the Czech president and prime minister before delivering his first public address in Europe since his inauguration. The speech is expected to focus on the threat posed by nuclear weapons proliferation.
In the afternoon the president will attend the EU-US summit together with the leaders of the 27 member states. He is also expected to meet with the former Czech president Václav Havel before leaving for Ankara in the late afternoon.
British film director Mike Leigh was awarded the Kristian prize for his contribution to world film at the closing ceremony of the Prague part of 16th International Festival Febiofest on Friday night. The festival featured Mr. Leigh’s latest film Happy-Go-Lucky, which premiered in April 2008 starring Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan. Altogether the festival featured 214 films from 58 countries, seen by around 70,000 film fans. It will now continue outside of Prague in eight Czech towns.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton privately on Saturday evening, according to the CTK news agency. Ms.Clinton is in Prague with U.S. President Barack Obama for the EU-US summit. Hillary Clinton knows Vaclav Havel from the days when her husband, then U.S. president Bill Clinton met with the former Czech head of state.
According to the AFP news agency, Prime Minister Topolánek hopes to persuade US President Barack Obama not to abandon plans for a controversial missile shield project in central Europe initiated by his predecessor president Bush. The project involves siting missile defence components in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Poland. AFP says that Washington’s new policy of dialogue with Moscow has increased anxiety among the former communist bloc states who were hoping that the project would tie them more firmly to the West.
Czech political leaders have reported progress in talks on setting up a caretaker government which would rule the country until early elections planned for the autumn. Representatives of the ruling coalition and the opposition Social Democrats said following talks late on Friday that an agreement on the composition of the proposed cabinet could be ready by Sunday evening and would be presented to the president on Monday. The ruling parties and the opposition were forced to cooperate on producing a new government after President Klaus said that he would not consider naming a prime minister designate anyone who did not have majority support in the lower house. The alternative is that President Klaus himself would put together a transitional cabinet of his own choice. The caretaker cabinet now being compiled by the coalition and opposition parties is likely to consist of career diplomats and non-partisan experts.
The United States has formally asked the European Union to accept former prisoners from Guantanamo, and has promised to provide all necessary information, the EU commission said on Friday. Despite a great deal of reticence, the European Union has indicated that some member states would be ready to accept former prisoners on a case-by-case basis. EU Immigration Commissioner Jacques Barrot and Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer travelled to Washington last month to seek more detailed information from the US authorities. The Czech side has so far not indicated a willingness to comply with the request. The issue is expected to be discussed at the EU-US summit in Prague on Sunday.
Political leaders entered into a further round of negotiations to solve the ongoing government crisis on Friday, with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek meeting for talks. Neither party would say what had been discussed after the meeting, though Mr Paroubek said later at a press conference that he wanted a solution to the government crisis before the week was out. Mr Paroubek also spoke with the head of the Communists Vojtěch Filip on Friday morning. The Civic Democrats and Social Democrats have tentatively agreed to form a caretaker cabinet, comprising ministers from both parties and potentially also the Communists, to tide the Parliament over until early elections.
Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has greeted the outcome of the G20 summit as an historic success. Mr. Kalousek however rebutted French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s comments suggesting the London summit meant the end of “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism. The Czech finance minister said such words were too strong and premature. He stressed in Prague on Friday that the solution to the ongoing global economic crisis must be based on free trade and the market economy. One of the main outcomes of the summit was agreement that an extra trillion dollars be earmarked for countries in financial trouble.
The governing Civic Democratic Party’s biggest donor last year was hockey star Jaromír Jágr, the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reports. Mr Jágr, who currently plays for Avangard Omsk in Russia, donated over 4 million crowns (over 202,000 USD) to the centre-right party in 2008. The hockey star told the paper that this was his way of voicing his view as a Czech citizen. The opposition Social Democrats’ biggest sponsor last year was a former teammate of Jaromír Jágr, Jiří Šlegr. Mr Šlegr gave half a million crowns (25,300 USD) to the Social Democrats in 2008.
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