The fighting over the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, and the fragile ceasefire which Georgians claim is repeatedly violated by Russian troops, has raised fears of a prolonged conflict between Moscow and the pro-Western, ex-Soviet state. And, on a broader scale, it has fuelled speculation about how Russia’s military offensive into South Ossetia could affect international relations, the balance of power in Europe and plans to expand NATO and the EU. Veronika Kuchynova Smigolova is head of the Security Policy Department at the Czech
The conflict between Russia and Georgia continued on Monday, as both sides accused each other of launching new military attacks and western diplomats scrambled to negotiate a ceasefire. All eyes were meant to be on Beijing and the Olympic Games this August, but it’s the Caucuses that have grabbed the world’s attention, and the Czech Republic is no exception.
The eyes of the world are on Beijing where athletes have been arriving for the 2008 Olympic games due to begin this coming Friday. And as the opening ceremony nears human rights activists around the world are stepping up the pressure on the Chinese regime, demanding greater openness and the release of all prisoners of conscience.
A top NATO general has criticized allied nations for not keeping their promises to support the Afghan army. According to the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, this is not only hampering efforts to defeat the insurgent militants in the country but will also lead to a later withdrawal of NATO forces. But the Czech Army says it is following the agreed timetable and sending more and better equipped troops to Afghanistan.
In early July, three days after the Czech Republic and the Bush Administration signed a controversial agreement on a future anti-ballistic missile radar base, Russia drastically reduced the supply of oil flowing into the country. The move prompted fears that the Czech Republic had become the latest post-communist country to face what some view as extortion from its former big brother – one strongly opposed to the placement of the US radar base on Czech soil. The crisis soon passed, with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordering a full restoration
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has ruffled Chinese feathers, having been snapped wearing a Tibetan flag badge. Mr Topolánek wore the pin at a news conference two weeks ago, when he announced that he would be attending this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, but not the opening ceremony. The Chinese authorities have lodged a complaint about the gesture, and summoned the Czech ambassador to Beijing for talks.
The future of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty was the main issue on the agenda when Czech President Václav Klaus played host to his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski on Thursday. The media speculation was that the Polish president was on a mission to persuade the euro-sceptic Mr Klaus to tone down his marked opposition to Lisbon. If that was the case, it was mission unaccomplished.
Czechs travelling to Canada can continue to do so without a visa. During a visit in Prague on Thursday, the Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley said that for the time being her country was not planning to reintroduce visa restrictions for Czechs. She added, however, that the Czech Republic and Canada must work together in an attempt to lower the number of Czechs seeking asylum in Canada.
The Czech Republic and the United States signed an agreement Tuesday on the positioning of a US radar base on Czech territory as part of an American anti-missile defence shield in Europe. Embraced by the country’s government, the treaty has been criticised by the opposition, Czech anti-radar activists as well as leaders in Moscow.
Shortly before 3 pm this Tuesday the Czech Republic and the United States signed a treaty in Prague on the stationing of a US radar base on Czech soil: part of US plans for a broader missile defence shield in Europe. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice together with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg signed the agreement at Černín Palace – the Foreign Ministry in the Czech capital. Our reporter Jan Richter was at the scene and joined us in the minutes following the signing.
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