In less than one month, the Czech Republic will mark an historic anniversary: 90 years since the founding of Czechoslovakia. To commemorate this day, the Czech Senate has put the original of the Pittsburgh Agreement, a document that created the basis for the new state, on display. On Monday, the US ambassadors to the Czech Republic and Slovakia presented the document to the head of the Czech Senate, Přemysl Sobotka. Ruth Fraňková has the details.
The Czech counter-intelligence service has said Russian spies are trying to stir up public opposition to a planned U.S. radar base to be built on Czech soil. In its annual report, the agency claimed Russian intelligence activity in the Czech Republic had reached fever pitch, and suggested the wider aim could be to weaken NATO and isolate the United States.
The full text of the Czech-American Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has been released on the Czech Defence Ministry’s website. The wording of the bilateral agreement was kept secret during negotiations, which spanned the last 16 months. The treaty was signed by Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová and US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates at a NATO summit in London last week. The Czech Defence Ministry said afterwards that it was happy with the final wording of the agreement. The SOFA treaty only covers troops stationed at a planned US radar base in Brdy, Central Bohemia, and not all US troops residing on Czech soil. Furthermore, the Czech Republic retains full sovereignty over and ownership rights to the area, a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry said.
Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer has said that America may drop visa requirements for Czechs on November 17 this year. The date, he said, was symbolic, as it marks the anniversary of the overthrow of communism. Czechs, who previously had to apply for a visa for any length of trip to the States, will then become part of the American visa-waiver programme, and amongst the first to go through a new electronic vetting system.
The American Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for the safety of air traffic in the United States, has reportedly been looking into an unmanned flights system designed by the cybernetics department at the Czech Technical University. The system, called AGENTFLY, has been designed to programme pilotless aircraft to react independently in unexpected situations.
A deal on the conditions under which US soldiers would operate at a radar base in the Czech Republic is very close and should be completed next month, the Czech defence minister, Vlasta Parkanová, said after talks with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Thursday. Mr Topolánek told reporters the status of forces agreement should then be discussed by the Czech Parliament in October. Czech legislators are set to vote on both it and the main treaty on the US radar by the end of this year. In July Prague and Washington signed the main treaty on the radar base, which will be part of an American anti-missile defence shield.
In a speech on Thursday, the US presidential hopeful Barack Obama focused
on the 40th anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. In his
speech, Mr Obama commented that the US did not do much to help
Czechoslovakia then, but stressed his country did much for the
building of a free Europe later. Mr Obama, the presumptive Democratic
nominee, also drew on similarities between the ’68 invasion and the
recent conflict between Russia and Georgia, saying that the “right to
live freely and securely within their borders – a right denied the
and Slovaks 40 years ago needed to apply to all European countries”.
At the same time, Mr Obama made clear that Russia was no longer the Soviet Union of the cold war era, and he stressed that the US had a stake in Russia in forwarding common interests.
The first New York Sokol opened its doors in 1867, only five years after the Sokol youth and gymnastics organisation was founded in Prague as an important element in the Czech National Revival nationalist movement. Sokol New York’s homely sports and social hall is on East 71st St in Manhattan. But that wasn’t the group’s first location.
Czechs should be travelling to the United States without visas by the end of this year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Czech Television on Tuesday. The Czech interior minister in February signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States, which was regarded as a first step towards the Czech Republic being included in the US visa-waiver programme. US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said he expected Czechs to travel to the States without a visa from the end of October or the beginning of November this year.
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