Prague witnessed its first major military parade since 1985 on Tuesday, to mark the 90th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Czechoslovakia weathered many storms before finally splitting into two countries in 1993, but the anniversary is still celebrated here in the Czech Republic, although not in Slovakia. The idea to hold a large-scale military parade attracted criticism in some quarters, but seems to have been positively received by the public.
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
David Rath, who led the Social Democrats to victory in the central Bohemian region, has said he wants to hold a regional referendum on the siting of a US radar base in the region, which he said would send an important signal to Parliament. Mr. Rath said much would depend on the outcome of the second round of Senate elections because if the Civic Democrats lost their majority in the Senate the radar’s future in the Czech lands would be highly problematic.
The Czech military base in the Afghan province Logar came under rocket
fire on Monday night. No injuries are reported. Six rockets were fired at
the base, home to the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team, but only one of
them hit its target. Czech troops fired back and detained four insurgents
whom they later handed over to the Afghan authorities. This is the fourth
attack on the base in the past two weeks. Ten Czech soldiers were injured
in two of the previous attacks.
The Czech government wants to send 200 more troops to the base to improve
security. However, it is not clear if the plan will win approval since the
opposition parties are unwilling to support it, saying that the country
needs to review its goals in Afghanistan and even consider withdrawing its
troops from the country.
An opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency suggests that the majority of Czechs are against sending more troops to Afghanistan. Two thirds of respondents said they did not agree with the government’s plan.
The US president George W. Bush signed a 2009 budget law Wednesday that sees $465,8 million allotted to the anti-ballistic-missile program to, key components of which will be located in Poland and the Czech Republic. The monies allotted to the European arm of the project are $246.3 million lower than were requested by the president. The US congress has stipulated that certain funding for the rockets that form a part of this system will only be available after further testing proves the system’s viability. As currently scheduled, the system will be functional by 2013.
Foreign Minister Karel Shwarzenberg has conceded that the current financial crisis in the US could delay the building of a proposed missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic as the US Congress seeks cutbacks on spending. Both major US presidential candidates are committed to the scheme, albeit with certain reservations about assuring its functionality. In comments made at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Mr Schwarzenberg also stated that Czech officials had been in contact with both Senators Obama and McCain with regards to the project. The Czech Republic’s parliament has not yet ratified a treaty on the base, although a vote is expected by the end of this year.
The Education Minister Ondřej Liška has suggested that a final decision on a US radar base’s being deployed to the Czech Republic, should only be taken after a NATO summit next spring. Speaking to ČTK (the Czech news agency) on Friday, Mr Liška said the summit would be the first opportunity to decide on integration of the US missile defence system within NATO structures. He made clear that ratification on the deal agreed by Prague and Washington should go ahead in first readings in Parliament, but suggested the final vote could be postponed. Mr Liška has said in the past that he will only back the radar proposal - part of broader US missile defence plans in Europe - if it is integrated within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
The Czech counter-intelligence service has said Russian spies are trying to stir up public opposition to a planned U.S. radar base to be built on Czech soil. In its annual report, the agency claimed Russian intelligence activity in the Czech Republic had reached fever pitch, and suggested the wider aim could be to weaken NATO and isolate the United States.
The Czech secret service BIS says the Russian intelligence service has
attempted to contact and influence politicians and media outlets in the
Czech Republic in order to increase public opposition to a planned US
base. BIS makes the charge in its 2007 annual report, which was posted on
its website on Thursday. The Czech secret service said Russia had tried to
influence over politicians, state agencies and civic groups last year. BIS
also said Russian spies had been gathering information in the business
sphere and supporting Russian financial interests in the Czech Republic.
Reacting to Thursday’s news, the Chamber of Deputies security committee has called a meeting with the directors of the three Czech secret services next week. Committee chairman Jan Vidím said the agencies had not provided such clear information on the subject before.
The Czech Republic has agreed to the building of a US radar base, part of a global anti-missile defence system, in central Bohemia, with Czech lawmakers expected to vote on the matter later this year. Opinion polls have consistently suggested most Czechs are against the radar. Russia has threatened to aim missiles at the Czech Republic if the project goes ahead.
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