A team of U.S. military experts arrives in the Czech Republic next week to examine potential sites for a new missile defence base. The United States is said to be considering either the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary for the new facility, but a Polish newspaper reports that Washington has already reached agreement with Warsaw. Rob Cameron has the following report.
It began as a rumour, but is now beginning to take shape. The United States, it seems, is serious about plans to build controversial new missile bases in Central Europe. The Americans reportedly have their eyes on a number of potential locations, and several Czech politicians have already given the idea their support. But the timing of the project could not be less fortunate - with so much uncertainty over the future government.
The Czech Republic regularly criticizes human rights abuses in places like Cuba and Belarus. However the Czechs now find themselves the subject of criticism: the United States says some North Koreans in the Czech Republic are being exploited by Czech employers - in tandem with the North Korean embassy - and are forced to work in slave-like conditions.
Governments around Europe have rejected the findings of the Swiss Senator Dick Marty in his report for the Council of Europe, which claims that 14 European countries colluded with the CIA on secret flights carrying terror suspects for interrogation. Senator Marty includes the Czech Republic on a list of countries which allegedly provided refuelling stopovers for the planes. The Czech authorities say as far they were concerned the flights were carrying US military personnel, and therefore they had no reason to intervene. But are they telling the
The media has been full of reports in recent weeks of plans by the US to build a missile defence system in Central Europe - largely a response to Iran's sabre-rattling over its nuclear programme. This summer - according to the New York Times - the Pentagon will choose between two countries: Poland and the Czech Republic. Rob Cameron spoke to Radek Khol, head of the Centre for Security Analysis at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.
For nearly all of his term as Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda has been trying to attain visa-free relations between the Czech Republic and Canada, and most recently he stepped-up the Czech lobby in the halls of Washington, D.C. But now it seems that the Czech Republic has been upstaged by the Poles, who have the best chance yet of seeing their visa requirements for the United States fall by the wayside.
Why do Czechs need a visa to travel to the United States while US citizens only need a passport to visit the Czech Republic? This is a question that comes up again and again. The US authorities have two main answers: the terrorist attacks of September 2001 have led to a stricter visa policy to protect national security; secondly the number of Czechs who enter the United States on a tourist visa to work there illegally is estimated at tens of thousands and has to be regulated. Both arguments sound pretty convincing, but some Czechs are not willing
Czech senators Karel Schwarzenberg and Jaromir Stetina have said they have been refused visas to Belarus where they planned to meet representatives of the political opposition. Mr Schwarzenberg and Mr Stetina said they were not surprised that they had not been granted visas by President Alexander Lukashenko's regime. The Belarussian Embassy said it would not comment on the issue.
Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg has been commenting on his expulsion from Cuba on Thursday, in the latest in a series of diplomatic rows between Havana and Prague. Speaking in Paris on his way back to the Czech Republic, Mr Schwarzenberg said his deportation had been quick and had passed without incident. But he added that Cuba's "exaggerated" reaction showed the nervousness of a regime visibly unsure of itself. Senator Schwarzenberg had planned to attend an unprecedented meeting of opponents of the Castro regime.
Czech officials and politicians have reacted heatedly to Cuba's expulsion
of a Czech senator, demanding an explanation. Senator Karel Schwarzenberg
was thrown out of the country late Thursday, soon after arriving to meet
with Cuban dissidents. So far, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has reacted
by saying the expulsion was proof the Czech Republic's tough stance on
Cuba was justified. Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka, meanwhile, has
described the expulsion as "a blatant violation of international
Karel Schwarzenberg is the former head of the presidential office under former Czech president Vaclav Havel, himself a strong critic of Fidel Castro's regime. The European Union is to decide soon whether to reinstate diplomatic sanctions against Cuba on the basis of human rights violations. The Czech Republic has been pushing the EU not to soften its stance.