The Czech government and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in particular have signaled their intention to invite Barack Obama - the new President-elect of the United States - to the Czech Republic in early 2009. The purpose: to attend an informal EU summit to be held in Prague in the spring. The visit would coincide with the Czech Republic’s term presiding over the EU, which begins on January 1. Dominik Jun spoke to political commentator Erik Best and asked him how important a visit by the newly sworn-in President Barack Obama would be:
Barack Obama has been congratulated on his election victory by President Václav Klaus, opposition Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. But what does Obama's victory mean for the controversial missile defence project, a subject that has so divided Czech politicians? Is the new U.S. president for missile defence, or against?
The US has pledged to provide 600 thousand US dollars in funding so far for three out of eight Czech scientific projects; Henry Obering, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency, made the announcement in Prague on Friday. He stressed it was only the start of future cooperation. The US agreed to finance the projects in connection with the Czech government’s backing of a US radar base on Czech soil - part of a missile defence system planned by the US in central Europe. Eight projects in different fields, submitted by the Czech Academy of Sciences, made the previous shortlist: fields include nanotechnology, robotics, laser technology, among others. Treaties on the US radar base have yet to be approved by the Czech Parliament.
The United States plans to abolish long-standing visa requirements for the Czech Republic on November 17. The plans were announced during a visit by the US Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff to the Czech Republic on Monday. Following Mr Chertoff’s meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, Mr Topolánek announced that the news represented a “big day” for him – visa requirements have long been a sore point of US-Czech relations. Under the new system, which will fully come into effect in January 2009, travellers to the US will have to register online at what is known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA system. Critics of the system argue that it is a de-facto visa requirement in that approval to travel must be gained several days before, although no fee is currently charged as is the case with US visas. That said, Czechs may have to pay several hundred crowns, according to Czech media sources.
On November 17, Czech citizens will be able to travel to the United States without visas for the first time ever. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced in Prague on Monday that the Czech Republic, along with several other central and eastern European countries, has been included in the US Visa Waiver Program.
US President George W. Bush and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek are scheduled to meet in Washington on October 29 to discuss the world financial crisis, anti-missile defence system and Europe’s energy security, the White House announced on Tuesday. The spokeswoman for the White House Dana Perino said both nations were interested in “promoting freedom in repressive societies, supporting security and development in Iraq and Afghanistan, advancing European energy security and countering new ballistic missile threats to Europe and the US from the Middle East.”
US President George W Bush has named seven countries, including the Czech Republic, as having met the criteria for being added to the United States’ visa waiver programme. Others include the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Also on the list: the Czech Republic’s neighbour, Slovakia. Mr Bush said on Friday other countries were also on the path towards visa waiver. The United States requires that countries seeking inclusion in the programme issue tamper-proof biometric passports. Countries are also required to see only a low number of US visa applications rejected annually.
Two thirds of Czechs believe that their savings are safe in spite of the current economic crisis, suggests a poll conducted by the SC&C agency for Mladá fronta Dnes. Analyst Markéta Šichtařová told the paper that Czechs invest less in shares than American savers, and put their money into property instead. She called this strategy sound in the current climate. One half of those polled said that they didn’t think it was necessary to react to the crisis in any particular way, but instead just wait until it blew over. A quarter of respondents said that they didn’t know what they could do to change the current situation.
The Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek is to visit the United States at the end of this month, it was announced on Wednesday. According to the newspaper Hospodářské noviny’s website, Mr Topolánek is to meet outgoing president George W. Bush during his visit to Washington. This will be the prime minister’s second official visit to the United States this year. America’s decision to abolish visas for Czechs, and US plans to build a radar base on Czech soil, are set to be top of the agenda. It is thought that Mr Topolánek will fly to the States on the evening of October 28, after celebrating the Czech Republic’s most important national holiday – the anniversary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918.
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