Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that his U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice would visit the Czech Republic in early July to sign a treaty – or treaties – on the planned deployment of a U.S. radar base on Czech soil. But in an interview for the Reuters news agency, Mr Schwarzenberg admitted he wasn’t sure ratification would get through the Czech parliament before George W. Bush leaves office. He also said he would offer his resignation if the proposal was defeated by MPs.
Plans to build a US radar base in the Czech Republic have been in the news lately, after a protest hunger strike undertaken by two members of a group called No to Bases. Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář, who started eating solid food again on Monday, are now being replaced by various public figures on short symbolic fasts. Their influence has also spread outside the Czech Republic, inspiring Bruce Gagnon, an activist with the US-based Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space; Mr Gagnon has not eaten for a week and a half – on the phone
The favoured Czech holiday destination par excellence is Croatia – with its miles of sandy beaches, beautiful coastal towns and exquisite Mediterranean cuisine. Well, actually, not many Czechs go for the cuisine - in fact a huge number of Czech tourists bring their own food with them. That obsessive self-catering seems to have irritated the Croatian authorities to such an extent that they’ve now banned tourists from bringing in meat and dairy products, to the fury of thrifty Czech visitors.
At midnight on Monday, protesters Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář will suspend their three week hunger strike over the government’s plans to allow a US anti-missile radar base into the country. Their cause has received international publicity and sparked controversy in Prague where some politicians have called them blackmailers, while others have offered to take up their cause. On Monday Dominik Jůn caught up with a clearly malnourished Jan Tamáš to find out how he felt and whether the protest had had the desired result.
The Czech Republic has become the 20th country of the European Union to recognize independent Kosovo. When the decision was announced last week, it was criticized by some Czech politicians who claimed the government of the former Serbian province has not yet fully shown its commitment to upholding democratic principles and protecting Kosovo’s religious and ethnic minorities. Radio Prague asked the head of the Czech Liaison Office in Pristina Janina Hřebíčková what the situation in Kosovo was like at the moment.
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 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.
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.
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
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