Barack Obama has been congratulated on his election victory by President Václav Klaus, opposition Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. But what does Obama's victory mean for the controversial missile defence project, a subject that has so divided Czech politicians? Is the new U.S. president for missile defence, or against?
The Czech Republic will not, after all, ratify the Lisbon treaty before it takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in just eight weeks’ time. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who only a fortnight ago gave assurances that Prague would ratify the document by January 1, now says Parliament will not vote on it until next year.
The whole world was watching on Tuesday night as American voters cast their ballots in one of the most heated US presidential campaigns – including Prague’s American expat community. Several election night parties were held around the city where supporters of both camps stayed up all night, awaiting the results.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, battling a seemingly inevitable leadership challenge at home, has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. During the trip, the PM met with Czech troops serving in the country and awarded several troops honorary medals for their efforts. The visit was made to commemorate the anniversary of the Czechoslovak day of independence – the day in 1918, in which independent Czechoslovakia came into existence. Mr Topolánek visited the Afghan city of Kandahar, where Czech troops are serving as part of allied forces fighting Taliban anti-government forces. The visit is Mr Topolánek’s second to the country, and aides say it was planned well ahead of time but kept secret for security reasons. The PM is expected back in Prague late Tuesday.
The Czech government has said that the country’s upcoming EU presidency has not been put in jeopardy by the plans of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. France’s head of state reportedly wants to increase the influence of the Eurogroup – a group of countries to which the Czech Republic does not belong, and which, during the Czech presidency, Mr Sarkozy himself would like to head. Czech officials have warned against the move, calling it 'divisive'.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told German leader Angela Merkel during her visit to Prague on Monday that the Czech Republic could ratify the Lisbon treaty by the end of the year: before the beginning of the country’s EU presidency. But the odds are now against Mr Topolánek, for whom the Lisbon treaty is just one of many battles.
Regional and Senate elections took place in the Czech Republic over the weekend in which the opposition Social Democrats defeated the parties of the governing coalition. The strongest opposition party scored a comprehensive victory, winning in all of the 13 regions of the Czech Republic. Social Democrat candidates also made it to the second round in all but one of the 27 electoral districts for the Senate where the poll was held. The relatively high turnout – just over 40 percent – suggests that Czech voters took these elections more seriously
Czech top officials have welcomed a statement by US President George Bush according to which seven countries, including the Czech Republic, have met the criteria for the US visa waiver programme and would be given visa-free status with a month’s time. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said the abolition of US visas for Czech citizens would remove one of the last remnants of the Cold War era and further deepen good relations between the two countries. Although no date has been announced, Czech officials have indicated that it will most likely be November 17th, the anniversary of the student protests that led to the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.
A brass band opens the Gratias Agit award ceremony in Prague's Černínský palác on Friday. The ceremony itself, and the party that follows, are in the words of Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg the single biggest event staged by the Czech Foreign Ministry each year. On Friday, the awards were given to a handful of exceptional individuals from around the world, a few of whom we'll be talking to later. But first, here's organiser Zuzana Opletalová explaining what the awards are about:
A 21-member Czech patrol came under fire in the province of Logar in Afghanistan on Wednesday, an attack that left a number of their assailants dead and seven Czech soldiers injured, one of them seriously. The Czech convoy came under attack around four kilometres from the Shank base, the same day that the government approved a plan to increase the number of Czech personnel in the Afghan mission in 2009.
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