The last years of the Brezhnev era were a period of deep mistrust between the Soviet Union and the United States. As disarmament talks stumbled and both countries expanded their nuclear arsenals, the popularity of the peace movement in the West grew. The governments of communist countries saw this as an opportunity to try to influence Western public opinion and Radio Prague’s English-language broadcasts were part of this process.
The Czech Senate approved the Lisbon treaty in a vote on Wednesday afternoon, some two months after the document was ratified by the lower house of Parliament. The Czech Republic is one of the last countries in Europe to vote on the reform document, and its ratification is far from complete, with eurosceptic president Vaclav Klaus still having to sign the document.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg began a two-day working visit to Belarus on Thursday. One of the main points on the agenda is the EU’s Eastern Partnership scheme which has been championed by the Czech EU presidency, and which will be formally unveiled in Prague on May 7. The project is to help forge closer links with six former Soviet republics and provide a platform for discussing visa agreements and free trade deals. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are expected to be part of the project but the extent to which Belarus will participate is not yet certain due to criticism of the authoritarian regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The European Commission has recommended that a decision on Mr Lukashenko’s attendance of the event be postponed until the last minute.
Speaking to TV Prima on Sunday, Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek confirmed that his party would nominate Jan Kohout for the post of foreign minister in the interim government which will take over the country on May 9. Mr Kohout was the Czech ambassador to the EU until 2008. After the government was toppled in a no-confidence vote at the end of March, the outgoing coalition and opposition Social Democrats agreed to form a caretaker government of experts to tide the country to early elections in October. Head of the Czech Statistical Office Jan Fischer was officially appointed head of this government by President Vaclav Klaus on April 9. He has yet to disclose who will form his cabinet. The outgoing coalition will nominate eight ministers, while the Social Democrats will propose seven, including foreign minister and deputy prime minister for European affairs.
On Sunday afternoon the US president met with the leaders of the 27 EU member states for an informal EU-US summit. The talks focused primarily on security issues, the situation in Afghanistan and global warming. Mr. Obama also asked EU leaders to consider taking in former prisoners from Guantanamo. Some EU states have indicated they would be willing to comply with this request on a case-by-case basis.
The US President and First Lady who arrived in Prague on Saturday were received with honours at Prague Castle on Sunday morning where Mr. Obama held talks with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek before delivering his first public address in Europe since his inauguration.
U.S. comments on the need to continue developing defences against
ballistic missiles have confirmed the Czech position that a defence shield
is needed, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova told the CTK news agency that Mr. Obama’s
speech and statements from the White House confirm what the Czech Republic
had been saying all along and what was also confirmed by the NATO summit -
that anti-missile defence is necessary, or it will be sooner or later. The
White house said North Korea's rocket launch earlier on Sunday demonstrated
the need for the United States to continue developing anti-missile systems.
The former US administration of president Bush made plans to site missile-defence components in Central Europe – a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Since the change of administration their future has been uncertain. Although the Czech government has approved the radar and Prague and Washington have signed the respective treaties, the project would still need to be approved by Parliament. Opinion polls show that the majority of Czechs are against the siting of a US radar on Czech soil. Three hundred people turned out to demonstrate against it in the centre of Prague on Saturday and more protests took place today.
US President Barack Obama has called on the international community to
cooperate in building a world without nuclear weapons. Speaking in Prague
on his maiden tour of Europe, Mr. Obama said that the Cold War was over and
it was time to face a new threat – that of a nuclear attack. He said that
while the threat of a nuclear war had gone down, the threat of a nuclear
attack had gone up. The US president said his country was ready to lead
such an international endeavor by pursuing a new deal with Russia to cut
nuclear warheads and seeking a new international treaty to end production
of fissile materials for nuclear arms.
Mr. Obama stressed the need to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
into force and seek tough penalties for nuclear proliferators. He said
North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket over Japan on Sunday was
proof of the urgency of these goals and called on Pyongyang to abandon its
efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
Addressing the issue of nuclear missile defense, the US president said that as long as the threat from Iran persisted America would go forward with the missile defense system. On the contrary, if the Iranian threat were eliminated, he said the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe would be removed.
EU leaders met with US President Barack Obama at an informal summit of the European Union and the United States in Prague on Sunday. The meeting, organized by the Czech EU presidency on the second day of President Obama’s visit to the Czech capital, followed up on issues discussed earlier this week at the G20 in London and the NATO summit in Strasbourg.
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