Locals opposed to building of NATO radar on site of famous 1805 battle

31-10-2003

The Slavkov battlefield in south Moravia - better known by its German name, Austerlitz - was the scene of the Battle of Three Emperors in 1805, in which Napoleon Bonaparte won his most famous victory by destroying the armies of Russia and Austria, despite having fewer soldiers. Now, almost 200 years later, the Czech Defence Ministry wants to build a NATO radar station on the historic site. Not surprisingly, perhaps, people in the area are up in arms. I discussed local objections with Miroslav Jandora from the organisation Austerlitz 2005.

"Nobody informed us two years ago when the army decided to build something there. We only had the first information this year, and they practically started the process of building in February this year. They only showed us in August what they would like to build. Nobody can decide about us without us."

The government says that before there was a Russian radar station on the site - perhaps you could be used to it.

"OK, ask the government when and how they paid for this ground. The Communists sent the owners some agreement, only a letter, saying 'OK, we are buying this ground from you for 0.40 crowns per metre'. That was it - they hadn't any chance to say 'no'. After this 'act' they built Russian radars there."

I understand you have thousands of tourists there every year - do you think this radar could have a bad effect on tourism in the region?

"Tell me something: do you know of some cemetery in Europe or in the world where there is a mass grave of soldiers, or many victims of some battle...is it possible to build something there? Like the Battle of Trafalgar or some other battle...it's nonsense."

Napoleon won a famous battle at Slavkov, or Austerlitz: do you get a lot of French tourists visiting the site there?

"Many people, not only from France, many people come because they had some relatives there. There were around 40,000 victims."

Can local people stop the building of this NATO radar?

"We are waiting for the court, and we are ready to go to (the European Court of Human Rights in) Strasbourg if we don't have success here in the Czech Republic."

So can I ask you do you think in five years time this radar will or won't be on famous battle site at Slavkov?

"I hope that somebody will think about it and move this radar to some other place."

31-10-2003