While the Olympics in Beijing are still over four months away, the recent unrest in Tibet has brought the issue of how the world should deal with China – and the games – to the fore. The Czech minister of education and sport is set to boycott the Beijing Olympics, while the prime minister has just issued a statement saying he will let the cabinet decide whether he should attend. With the president staying home for health reasons, will any senior Czech politicians actually go to Beijing? And what would it mean if they don't?
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek, is flying to Moscow today along with several other key members of his party. On the agenda will be the proposed US missile defence system in central Europe, which both Russia and the Social Democrats oppose. But the Czech government is in favour of the country hosting a US radar base, and has accused the opposition Social Democrats of pursuing a potentially damaging alternative foreign policy.
Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has come out strongly against plans by the US to site a radar base in the Czech Republic – as part of a broader missile defense system in Europe. In an interview for public broadcaster Czech TV on Monday, the former Soviet leader questioned the system was being planned against rogue states like Iran, saying on the contrary it was aimed against Russia and China. His views contrasted those of former Czech president Václav Havel who appeared on the same show. He defended the project – calling it a “first chance”
In January 2009, the Czech Republic will for the first time assume the EU presidency. But the current Czech coalition government may have a problem – its policies have often seemed hostile to European consensus politics. With bilateral negotiations between the government and the US on a proposed radar base as well as a visa waiver programme, many have the impression that the current government, like its Polish counterpart, is hostile to the EU.
Charles Grant is the director of the Centre for European Reform, one of the UK’s leading pro-EU think tanks. When we met in Prague recently, the conversation ranged from next year’s Czech presidency of the European Union to whether the Czechs should adopt the euro. But my first question for Charles Grant was: what impact have the recent enlargements had on the EU?
Politicians from across the Czech political scene have expressed concerns about the lack of democratic principles employed during Russia’s presidential election. While the Czech Foreign Ministry ‘regrets’ that Russian authorities didn’t allow for an open race of all the candidates, the opposition also share the concern for the future of Russian democracy.
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.
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