Two weeks after the United States officially petitioned the Czech Republic for authorisation to operate a radar base in the country, the matter continues to make headlines. The domestic political scene is divided on the issue. While the governing Civic and Christian Democrats say they support the plan, the opposition Communists and Social Democrats are demanding a referendum on the issue.
Although talks on a possible US anti-missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland have barely begun the idea has already met with plenty of controversy. Russian President Vladimir Putin last week slammed the plan as an attempt to change the strategic balance in Europe, saying that Russia would come up with a "highly effective" response. Many Czechs consider it a threat to national security and some EU members have unofficially criticized the fact that the US missile base would be part of a bilateral defense agreement. Czech MEP Libor
German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a brief visit to the Czech Republic on Friday to discuss the future of the EU constitution and other issues with Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek and president Vaclav Klaus. The German Chancellor's visit also coincided with the tenth anniversary of the so-called Czech-German Declaration. This document was signed in Prague ten years ago this week and was drafted to help lay the foundation for modern German-Czech relations.
With a new government finally in office, the focus has shifted from the country's political crisis to key foreign policy issues. In the coming months the Czech leadership will have to decide about hosting a US radar-base on its territory, consolidate its stand with regard to the EU constitution and start preparing for the country's EU presidency in 2009. The government's foreign policy team is now bigger than ever and on Tuesday President Klaus invited three government ministers to Prague Castle for some foreign-policy fine tuning.
President Klaus invited three government ministers to Prague Castle on
Tuesday for some foreign-policy fine tuning following the change of
guard in Czech administration. The meeting was attended by Prime
Minister Topolanek, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs
Alexander Vondra and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. President
Klaus said after the meeting that these were no significant differences
of opinion between himself and the new government regarding outstanding
foreign policy issues such as the EU constitution or the possibility of
the Czech Republic co-hosting a US missile-defense system.
In related news it was announced on Tuesday that Civic Democrat MEP Jan Zahradil would be the country's chief negotiator regarding all matters relating to the EU constitution.
Formal talks between the United States and the Czech Republic will begin soon on placing part of America's Missile Defence Shield on Czech territory. The Czech Republic will most likely host a radar and tracking station - a controversial step for a country that once hosted Soviet military installations. The move must still be approved by parliament, although no referendum is planned. The Prague-based American peace activist Gwendolyn Albert explained to Radio Prague why she opposed the missile defence system.
The disruption of oil supplies to Poland and Germany due to Russia's closure of a pipeline after of a price dispute with Belarus has sent shockwaves through Europe. Although immediate supplies to countries like the Czech Republic are not under threat, the situation has once again raised uncomfortable questions about Europe and the Czech Republic's increasing reliance on Russia as an energy supplier.
The Austrian parliament has taken major step towards a confrontation with the Czech government over the controversial nuclear plant at Temelin. Yesterday Austria's legislature approved a strongly-worded motion demanding the Czechs prove that they have taken steps to make Temelin safer, or face a lawsuit.
Last week United States President George W. Bush announced plans to modify his nation's visa waiver program to raise the number of countries whose citizens can enter the U.S. without a visa. The announcement was made during a trip to Estonia, and was received by Czechs with great interest, as the Czech Republic is one country that could stand to benefit from a change in U.S. visa policy. Because U.S. citizens are allowed to enter the Czech Republic for a short period without a visa, but Czechs are unable to do the same, it is an issue that festers
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