The Czech Republic inches ever closer to January 1st, 2009, when – for the first time – it will take the helm of the European Union. The agenda for the EU presidency over the next eighteen months will be shared between France, the Czech Republic and Sweden, and the deputy minister for European affairs Alexandr Vondra is hosting his French and Swedish colleagues this week to put the finishing touches to a 70-page document setting out EU policy.
The Czech government is working on a proposal that will give Poland back the land it was stripped of in the 1950s, at the order of the Soviet leadership. While the territory to be returned to the Czech Republic’s northern neighbour is very small and Polish claims are not disputed, some mayors that will be affected by the settlement hope their own interests will also be taken into account.
On Wednesday the government approved a treaty between the Czech Republic and the US on the deployment of an American radar base on Czech territory. The treaty, to be signed later this summer, sets the ground for a planned US missile defence system in Europe, including not only the radar in the Czech Republic but also interceptor rockets in Poland. But reaching agreement with the US is only the first step. The coalition will next have to push the treaty through Parliament and there is every indication that it won’t have it easy.
On Wednesday, the Czech government officially recognised Kosovo’s independence and said it planned to establish diplomatic relations with Pristina. The Czech Republic now joins a long line of EU member states to have acknowledged the former Serbian province’s independence, but the move has not been without controversy.
The Czech and American governments have reached a deal under which a US radar base would be based in central Bohemia. With most Czechs opposed to the project, Prague’s American Center, part of the U.S. Embassy, has launched a photo exhibition entitled “Life with the Radar”. It documents life on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, which hosts the radar facility that could one day be moved to the Czech Republic. Radio Prague talked to Miroslav Konvalina, the head of the American Center and a former Czech Radio correspondent in the United
Czechs who do a lot of travelling around Europe had reason to celebrate in December when their country finally joined the Schengen border-free zone, a move that promised to bring Czech citizens freedom of movement and end the tedious passport controls at many European borders. But things have not turned out quite as expected. Although the checkpoints were removed, the traffic police in neighbouring Austria and Germany are reportedly targeting Czech drivers in the border areas, subjecting them to thorough inspections for no apparent reason. So,
The world media descended upon Moscow on Wednesday where Dmitry Medvedev was sworn in as Russia’s third president since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His predecessor, Vladimir Putin will become prime minister and is expected to retain a tight grip on the political scene. The change-of-guard comes at a time of heightened friction over Washington’s missile defense plans for Central Europe and has raised questions regarding Moscow’s future foreign policy. Daniela Lazarova spoke to Oldřich Bureš, an expert on Czech-Russian relations about the possible
Prague’s Foreign Ministry played host to a conference on missile defence on Monday, with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer among the guest speakers. The conference was organised to look at what lies ahead for plans to build a U.S. radar tracking facility on Czech soil after NATO gave the project a cautious endorsement at its recent summit in Bucharest.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has said that US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will not be visiting Prague next week at least in part because Czech officials would not have enough time to speak to her about important matters. It was announced on Monday that Mrs Rice, who was due to arrive in Prague on May 5 to sign an agreement paving the way for a US radar on Czech soil, would not have the time to visit. But on Tuesday, the Czech Foreign Ministry said that on that date it would be playing host to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and so it would not have time for talks with Mrs Rice. The treaties which Mrs Rice was expected to sign next week have been shelved until June, Czech Prime Minsiter Mirek Topolánek said Monday.
Plans to build a radar base 70km southwest of Prague as part of the U.S. missile defence shield encountered a minor setback on Monday, as it emerged that U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will not visit Prague on May 5th to sign a bilateral agreement on the base. The news came as activists from the environmental group Greenpeace occupied the patch of land where the base is to be built.
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