On Monday, when Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek met with Polish counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw as part of a two-day official visit, it was no surprise that a proposed US missile defence system in Europe topped the leaders' discussion list. The US has asked the Czech Republic and Poland to respectively host radar and rocket bases on their territory as part of an anti-missile shield designed to prevent potential missile attacks by Iran or North Korea. On Monday, both Mr Topolanek and Mr Kaczynski made it clear that they were in favour of
Jirina Zizkovska LaVine recently received the Czernin Palace Memorial Bronze Medal. Every year the Czech ambassador to the United States confers the prize on an individual or body that has made significant contributions to fostering Czech-US relations. Mrs Lavine, who is 82, was actually presented with the award by the Czech consul in Kansas City, where she has lived since leaving Czechoslovakia over five decades ago. On the phone from there, she told me a little about how she began promoting Czech culture in local schools.
President Klaus has sent a letter of condolence to the widow of the late US president Gerald Ford. Mr. Klaus wrote that Gerald Ford was an exceptional politician with great foresight and that it had been an honor to meet with him in person. Mr. Klaus praised the late president's contribution to the fall of communism, saying that Gerald Ford started the work that Ronald Reagan later brought to a successful conclusion. His work had a fundamental impact on freedom in central and Eastern Europe and contributed to the fact that the Czech Republic and the United States are close allies today, President Klaus wrote.
Numerous newspapers and magazines serve the Czech community in the United States, from "nationwide" publications such as Americke listy to regional titles like Czech Nebraska. There are also several internet websites and email newsletters, such as the weekly Dumpling News; it is produced by Zora Pergl, a woman of Czech descent based in Florida. I asked her how Dumpling News has been received since its launch in April last year.
The American Center in Prague has a new home: the Wratislavsky Palace in Prague's Mala Strana district. The Center is the cultural and educational arm of the US Embassy, and has had many addresses over the years. The new location, embassy staff hope, will be the Center's home for many years to come.
Last week United States President George W. Bush announced plans to modify his nation's visa waiver program to raise the number of countries whose citizens can enter the U.S. without a visa. The announcement was made during a trip to Estonia, and was received by Czechs with great interest, as the Czech Republic is one country that could stand to benefit from a change in U.S. visa policy. Because U.S. citizens are allowed to enter the Czech Republic for a short period without a visa, but Czechs are unable to do the same, it is an issue that festers
The Czech foreign minister Alexandr Vondra appeared to confirm this week what defence analysts have been speculating upon for some time: if the United States decides to place part of its missile defence system in Europe, the Czech Republic will almost certainly be asked to host a radar and tracking station, not a full-blown missile base. However there are still many hurdles to be overcome before work on such a facility can begin.
US President George W. Bush speaking with President Vaclav Klaus at the
NATO Summit underway in Riga, has reportedly reiterated conviction that
visa requirements for Czechs travelling to the US will eventually be
waived. Speaking to reporters after a brief meeting with his US
counterpart, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said President Bush anticipated
intense debate in Congress, which will have the final word.
While Czech Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra has put two years as an estimate for changes in visa policy, some US officials are being more cautious. The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber on Wednesday reacted by suggesting that while two years was perhaps a good estimate, the timeframe couldn't be guaranteed.
Viktor Kozeny, the so-called Pirate of Prague, appeared one step closer to extradition to the United States on Thursday. A court in the Bahamas - Mr Kozeny's adopted home - confirmed June's decision to deport him to the U.S. to face charges of bribing senior government officials in Azerbaijan. However Czech investors allegedly defrauded by Mr Kozeny in the 1990s are still no closer to seeing their money.
The US Embassy in Prague has recommended that all US citizens visiting the Czech capital exercise caution with regards to a possible terrorist threat. The embassy released the statement on Wednesday - ahead of the state holiday - but said it had no specific information about any planned attack. An embassy spokesperson said that the recommendation came in reaction to questions by US citizens following a declaration by the Czech government last weekend stressing Prague was at threat. Special security measures in the city were introduced and remain in effect. The embassy has asked citizens to report anything out of the ordinary to the police.
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