President Václav Klaus will visit Serbia within the next six weeks. During one of his first trips abroad after re-election, Mr Klaus will meet with his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadič. Earlier this month, President Klaus rejected Kosovo’s declaration of independence. The Czech government has not yet recognized independent Kosovo but a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that Mr Klaus’ visit to Belgrade is in line with Czech foreign policy towards the Balkan country which is based on long-standing good relations.
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that his country was
“very close” to signing an agreement with the Czech Republic on
building g an American radar base in central Bohemia. Mr Bush’s remarks
came after a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in
Washington. Mr Topolánek said that only minor details needed to be sorted
out and that negotiations on the issue would be concluded very shortly.
Both President Bush and Prime Minister Topolánek rejected Moscow’s
claims that the U.S. anti-missile shield in Central Europe was to be used
against Russia. Mr Bush said that the system was meant to address potential
threats coming from countries run by extremist ideologies.
For his part, Prime Minister Topolánek said that Czech-U.S. relations would be elevated to the level of ‘strategic dialogue’, similar to that between the United States and Great Britain. This will involve the exchange of sensitive information as well as regular meetings of the countries’ top officials and expert teams.
The Czech Republic and the United States are just “three words away” from a treaty on basing a U.S. anti-missile radar facility in Central Bohemia, according to the leaders of the two countries. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on Wednesday, and while a final treaty was not agreed, they seemed confident it would be soon. But the path to expanding missile defence to Central Europe does not appear smooth.
The European Commission has said it has not ruled out taking legal action
against the Czech Republic for unilaterally signing a memorandum of
understanding with the United States that is a first step towards the Czech
Republic being included in the US visa waiver programme. The Commission has
expressed concern that the memorandum might include a promise to provide
sensitive personal data on people travelling to the US, which went beyond
Left-wing Communist and Social Democrat MPs have also said they are unhappy with the personal data requirements in the document and say the government should have consulted more closely with the EU on the issue.
For his part, Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek has said that the memorandum should enable the Czech Republic to finally achieve its longstanding ambition to join the US visa waiver programme later this year and that the arrangement could serve as a model for other EU countries.
“The fulfillment of a dream for a generation of Czechs” is how Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek described the signing on Tuesday of a document that paves the way for Czechs to visit the United States without a visa. However, Czech citizens will have to provide detailed information to US officials prior to travelling, and Prague’s go-it-alone approach to visa negotiations has ruffled feathers in Brussels.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek leaves on a three-day working visit the United States on Monday. His meetings with US President George Bush and American top officials are expected to revolve around two outstanding issues in bilateral relations – the lifting of visa restrictions for Czechs travelling to the US and Czech participation in the US missile defence programme.
Czech troops stationed in Kosovo as part of the KFOR multinational peace-keeping force, were called in on Thursday to reinforce local police units during a rally held at a border crossing between Serbia and Kosovo. It was their first call to action in newly independent Kosovo, unsettled by escalating Serbian protests.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is expected to sign a visa-waiver memorandum during his visit to the United States next week. The memorandum between the Czech government and the US Department of Homeland Security is likely to result in the abolition of tourist visas for Czech citizens before the end of 2008. The European Union has criticized the Czech Republic for bilateral negotiations with the United States over the visa-waiver programme.
Joseph Carrano and John Moore, the two American citizens arrested in Prostějov, South Moravia, in the beginning of October for overstaying the 90-day visa-free period, are currently detained in a facility for illegal aliens and are facing deportation. They initially applied for asylum in the country to avoid it but have recently withdrawn their application. They are not seeking international protection, just the chance to stay with their family in the Czech Republic. They say they have been treated unfairly by the Czech authorities, and they don’t
The Czech Republic remains reserved towards recognizing Kosovo as an independent country. After the former Serbian province proclaimed independence on Sunday, Czech diplomats said they would wait for a common EU strategy on the issue. But a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday failed to reach any joint policy towards Kosovo, and the Czech Foreign Ministry has set down its own conditions for the recognition of Kosovo.
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