When the Czech Republic enters the Schengen zone on December 21, it will bring in an era of passport-free travel for Czechs abroad. But not everyone is looking forward to the change. Entry to the Schengen zone could spell trouble for the sizeable number of Americans who have, up until now, been living and working in Prague without a visa.
The Bush administration’s plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic as part of the U.S. missile defence shield have stirred passions both at home and abroad. One of those who feel strongly about the idea is the Californian artist Kevin Kihn, who contacted Radio Prague with a rather unusual proposal. Instead of a radar facility, he suggested, why not build a Peace Dome in its place? We spoke to Kevin at his home in the town of Alameda, in the San Francisco Bay.
The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber has revealed numbers showing the Czech Republic has come significantly closer to meeting requirements for visa-free status with the United States. According to the numbers, the number of visas rejected for Czechs was 6.7 percent of applications put forward, a drop from around 9.5 percent. Under legislation adopted in the US this year countries could theoretically be granted visa-free status providing they meet key criteria, first and foremost posting less than 10 percent of applications rejected. Earlier this week, Canada struck down visa requirements for Czechs for short-term visits, a move welcomed by Czech officials. The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber said on Friday that steps towards visa-free status with the US could be achieved by the Czech Republic within one or two years.
Lebanese-born Swedish citizen Oussama Kassir, who was arrested two years ago at Prague airport, has been extradited to the United States. U.S. authorities accuse him of supporting terrorism in connection with his intentions to fund a terrorist training camp in Oregon. The decision to extradite Mr Kassir to the U.S. was approved by Czech courts earlier this year, and Czech Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil has now confirmed their decision. Due to the terrorism charges, Oussama Kassir is facing a life sentence in the United States.
Our guest for One on One this week is Will Tizard an American journalist who has been based in Prague since 1994. Besides writing regularly for the Czech Republic's English-language newspaper The Prague Post, Will Tizard is also an editor for the prestigious Time Out city guide as well as the Czech and Slovak correspondent for the leading movie-industry publication Variety Magazine.
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
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