President Vaclav Klaus has been criticised by a number of Czech politicians for a speech he is going to deliver at a conference on climate change held by the Secretary General of the U.N. in New York. While some say Mr Klaus should not express his personal opinions on the matter but rather the official position of the Czech Republic, others fear that his speech might harm Czech prospects of securing a non-permanent seat in the U.N.'s Security Council.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Saturday evening that
negotiations with US representatives on the construction of a proposed
American radar base were proceeding without any major problems after
holding talks with a delegation from the US Congress on the issue. He also
said that a number of obstacles to the negotiations had been removed
although he declined to elaborate.
The US delegation, headed by Democratic congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, also met with the deputy prime minister Alexander Vondra and the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek. Earlier, Ms Tauscher had said that the proposed US missile defence system involving a radar base in the Czech Republic and an interceptor missile facility in Poland must be fully incorporated into NATO and it must protect both Europe and the United States.
The proposed US facilities are intended as part of a missile defence system aimed at countering possible attacks from so-called rogue states such as Iran. Polls show that a majority of Czechs are against the proposal even though it has the tentative support of the centre-right government. A final decision on the base is expected early next year.
American Secretary of Defence Robert Gates is to visit the Czech Republic to meet with Czech politicians and discuss the possible establishment of a US radar base in the country, according to the Czech Press Agency (CTK). Citing what it calls "a reliable source", CTK says Mr Gates meetings should take place on 20 and 21 October. The US embassy in Prague has so far declined to comment on the report. A number of senior American political figures have already visited the Czech Republic to promote the proposed radar. Nevertheless, opinion polls suggest that a large majority of Czechs are against having the military facility in their country.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus has become the face of a media campaign questioning the impact of global warming. The campaign is run by the free-market think-tank Heartland Institute. It features pictures of Vaclav Klaus and former US vice-president Al Gore under the headline "Global Warming Is No Crisis". It also draws attention to Mr Klaus' speech that is to take place in two week's time at the UN conference on global warming. I spoke to Tom Swiss of the Heartland Institute and started by asking about the campaign's aim.
Jiri Boudnik is a Czech architect who has been living in the United States for the last 20 years. On September 11th 2001, he witnessed the fall of the Twin Towers from his office in Brooklyn, and rushed to the scene to help. In the days following on from the September 11th attacks, he continued to assist the emergency services in their hunt for survivors. How? By designing a computer model of the World Trade Center as was, to help the rescuers find their way through the rubble. To mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11, Jiri Boudnik spoke to us earlier
The US Embassy has confirmed that a team of American experts will come to
the Czech Republic on Monday to examine the conditions for stationing a
possible US radar base at the village of Misov, some 90 kilometres
southwest of Prague, which was chosen as the most suitable location.
Municipalities near the Brdy military area, where the radar base is to be positioned, are against the plan, fearing the radar could affect the environment or the health of local residents. They have repeatedly rejected the base in locally- held referenda.
Social Democrat chairman Jiri Paroubek plans to marry his new partner
The chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, is planning to marry his new partner Petra Kovacova once he divorces his wife Zuzana Paroubkova, Pravo reported. Speaking to the daily, Mr Paroubek indicated that all of the media would have to write about Miss Kovacova "decently", referring to the fact that some tabloids had called his partner his "mistress".
The opposition leader announced a month ago that he and his wife were divorcing after 28 years and that Ms. Kovacova, some 20 years his junior, was his new girlfriend.
Guns from Ceska zbrojovka arms producer were stolen during their transport to the US in the past few days. The damage amounts to more than 80,000 Czech crowns (USD 4,000). According to the Pravo daily, it was the second arms theft from the delivery over the Atlantic Ocean in the past months and the third in the past year.
The Czech ambassador to Washington, Petr Kolar, has said that some parts of the security bill recently passed by the American Senate don't make much sense. The bill, which may eventually lead to inclusion of the Czech Republic as well as other Central European countries in the visa-waiver programme, also introduces the duty to accept former citizens of the country for repatriation from the United States, even though they would not be their citizens. Speaking on Czech Radio on Monday, Mr Kolar described this as a difficult legal issue. The changes in the visa waiver programme still need to be signed by the U.S. President.
This week was without question an important one for US-Czech relations. The reason? On Wednesday both houses of the US Congress agreed on changing US legislation to allow potential exceptions within the country's visa waiver programme. Under the proposed changes, it is thought Czechs could begin travelling visa-free to the US in two years time. Initial reports were even more optimistic, citing a one year timeframe. But there the Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed caution, saying such a timetable was probably unrealistic.
The Foreign Ministry has indicated that earlier reports that the Czech
Republic might be eligible for the United States' visa waiver programme in
one year's time were too optimistic, estimating that such a move would
realistically take about two years. The ministry nevertheless noted
progress on the issue of visa waiver in the US this week. Both houses of
the US Congress on Wednesday discussed visa-free conditions, and
unofficial reports have suggested legislation changes agreed could see
exceptions made for countries not meeting a current 3 percent threshold.
Under the waiver programme, rejected US visa applications per country must
not exceed 3 percent over three years.
But under proposed changes, countries not breaching a ten percent threshold over one year could potentially be eligible. The Czech Republic, for example, sees around nine percent of its applications for US visas rejected annually.
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