The Czech Army has begun rotating its soldiers taking part in an international peace-keeping mission in Kosovo. The first 50 members of a new contingent left Prague’s Kbely airport on Tuesday. One of its main tasks will be assisting at demonstrations in case they turn violent. The situation among local Serbs and Albanians is reported to be relatively stable at the moment. The 550 members of the new contingent are expected to stay on their mission until July 2008.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg called Thursday on Myanmar's ruling junta to take the country towards democracy on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the country's independence. In a letter sent to the junta's leaders, Mr Schwarzenberg said he hoped that Myanmar's population would soon have the possibility to celebrate “real freedom”. The foreign minister also challenged the junta to release all political prisoners and to start talks with the leaders of democratic forces in the country. The junta violently cracked down on peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks in September with at least 31 people killed and 74 missing, according to a UN report.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that he expects Prague and Washington to conclude a treaty on the construction of a US radar base in the Czech Republic in early 2008, saying in Brussels on Friday that agreement could be reached sometime between January and March. The Czech government is negotiating on the radar project with the US even though the project is opposed by a majority of Czechs as well as the opposition. Russia has also been one of the main critics of the US plan to deploy the radar base to the Czech Republic as part of its planned missile defence shield in Central Europe.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has said that Prague will consult its position on Kosovo with other EU countries in the event that independence there is unilaterally declared. A December 10 deadline on talks on the future of the province approaches and there are fears that violence could break out in the still-Serb province if ethnic Albanian leaders decide to eventually declare independence. Mr Schwarzenberg said in Brussels on Friday that he would prefer a UN Security Council decision on the status of Kosovo, but admitted that was unlikely. On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that NATO would “act resolutely against anyone seeking to resort to violence” in Kosovo. NATO has confirmed that its 16,000+ troops in the area will stay put to quell any outbreaks.
Wednesday the centre right government of Mirek Topolanek celebrated a double triumph – it survived a motion of no-confidence initiated by the opposition parties and pushed through the 2008 state budget. Despite its fragile majority in the lower house the government appears to have a firm hold on the reins of power, but now the political ambitions of one man are threatening to destroy its unity.
The Defence Ministry announced on Monday that the Czech Republic would withdraw most of its troops from Iraq next year, and at the same time the country's presence in Afghanistan would be substantially increased. The redeployments, which still have to be approved by parliament, will come into effect in July 2008.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has reacted to the preliminary results of early elections in Poland by saying he expects the new Polish government will push through needed reforms and will cooperate more with the EU. Mr Schwarzenberg also said he expects the new administration to be less confrontational regarding relations with Germany. According to preliminary results in Poland's election, the opposition Civic Platform (headed by Donald Tusk) won Poland's election far in front of the Law and Justice party of the Kaczynski brothers. Mr Schwarzenberg congratulated the victors, saying the result in Poland showed a shift back towards the centre on the part of voters.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is on Monday going to present a report to the cabinet on the Czech Republic's recent failure to win a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The Czech Republic withdrew from the vote after the country's rival for the post Croatia gathered more support. It will occupy the post for two years, starting in 2009. Mr Schwarzenberg said there were several reasons Prague had lost the vote; however, he said, the fact the Czech Republic is to assume the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2009 was not among them.
This month the Canadian Ambassador to Prague Michael Calcott hosted a panel discussion at the Canadian residence recalling cooperation between Czech dissidents and Canadian officials in the years leading up to the fall of communism. During the mid-1980s, the end of the period known as the Normalisation, key officials at the embassy went out on a limb, risking careers to help dissidents and their cause, even going so far as to smuggle dissident writing, even going so far as to smuggle dissident writing (Samizdat) out of the country. Documents included