The possible stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory, as part of an expanded US missile defense system, is causing controversy both at home and abroad. Russia remains vehemently opposed to the plan, Austria has called it a provocation and villages in the area where it may be located are rallying against it.
At a meeting of Czech ambassadors on Monday, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg called for consistency in the country's foreign policy. He called for the strengthening of transatlantic bonds, saying the Czech Republic and its partners over the Atlantic "were linked by the values they shared". Mr. Schwarzenberg said that the Czech Republic's relations with neighbouring Poland and Germany were excellent, while relations with Austria were good, with the occasional hitch. Mr. Schwarzenberg was addressing an annual meeting of Czech ambassadors in Prague's Cerninsky Palac when he made the remarks.
The drawn-out Czech-Austrian dispute over the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia, located just sixty kilometers from the Austrian border, took a new turn over the weekend when the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Muhammad El Baradei threw his weight fully behind the Czech Republic. In an interview for Monday's edition of the Austrian paper Profil Mr. El Baradei said that Temelin posed no danger to the environment and indicated that the plant's opponents in Austria were obsessed with its existence rather than concerned about
Last week the government passed a proposal which could see some 150 Czech soldiers, along with civilian specialists, operate in the province of Logar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan. Czech soldiers have been involved in the north-east of the country since 2005, but Logar (a province rich in agricultural production, largely responsible for supplying food to the Afghan capital) could represent a new milestone. Czechs - who in the north of the country share operations with German and Danish teams - would run this operation alone.
A team of US congressmen specialized in democratization of Cuba will arrive in Prague on Monday for a two-day visit. They are scheduled to meet with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Czech ambassador to Cuba and members of non-profit organizations. The Czech Republic belongs among the biggest critics of Cuban regime and has been long promoting human rights and political freedoms in Cuba.
It is not often that a Czech official is nominated to head a major international organisation. However, the news that Russia is putting forward former Czech prime minister Josef Tosovsky for the top job at the International Monetary Fund has not been greeted with joy in the Czech Republic. On the contrary, Mr Tosovsky's candidature has left Prague angry and embarrassed.
On Tuesday officials from the Czech foreign and defence ministries met for talks with Russian representatives in Moscow, including the Chief of the General Staff, General Yuri Baluyevsky. The issue? A possible US radar base stationed on Czech territory. For months Russia has expressed opposition to the idea of US missile defense in Europe and increasingly stepped up political action and rhetoric. On Tuesday General Baluyevsky continued in that vein by stating that Czech consent to negotiations with the US was "a mistake".
The Czech Republic is to close its embassies in Uruguay, Singapore and Zimbabwe, it was announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. Consulates in Bonne, Cape Town, Katowice and Milan will also be shut down. The government says that it has taken this step so as to plough more resources into the Czech Republic's 2009 EU presidency, and the country's entrance into the Schengen zone. The decision will affect around 120 people in total.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has decided to close seven of its diplomatic missions, three embassies and four consulates. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said the ministry would release the names of the given countries only after these countries have been officially informed. The government has already approved the closures. According to the news server Aktualne.cz the missions to be closed include the Czech embassies in Zimbabwe and Uruguay, and consulates in Katowice, Poland and Cape Town, South Africa. The server writes that the missions to be closed are in countries that are visited only by a low number of Czech tourists and that do not have intensive trade relations with the Czech Republic.
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