The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says he will push for the
government to recognise the independence of Kosovo this Wednesday, before
he leaves for a NATO summit in Bucharest. In an interview for
noviny, he said there was no alternative to recognising the breakaway
province now, adding that it would be better to do so before elections in
Serbia. However, Mr Topolánek was critical of Kosovo, describing it as a
boil on the western Balkans for which there was no good solution. He said
the Serbs were traditional partners of the Czechs, and if the Czech
Republic did not grant recognition of Kosovo’s independence Czech
soldiers there would in effect become an occupying army. He said the only
reason Prague would recognise Kosovo was so as not to tarnish relations
with partners in the European Union and NATO.
Meanwhile, the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said he would not insist on a decision being reached on the matter this Wednesday. He said he would like to give ministers time to consider such an important matter.
Speaking on a TV debate programme, Mr Schwarzenberg also said there was no need for Mr Topolánek to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing in August. On Thursday the prime minister said he would ask the cabinet to vote on the issue; following a Chinese crackdown on protesters in Tibet, the question of whether leaders should attend the ceremony has been debated internationally. The Czech minister of education and sport, Ondřej Liška, has said he will not go to Beijing. The Czech president, Václav Klaus, will miss the opening ceremony for health reasons.
President Klaus had a meeting with the Russian chess champion and opposition figure Garry Kasparov in Hluboká nad Vltavou, south Bohemia on Sunday. Speaking afterwards, Mr Kasparov said the Czech president had expressed interest in the situation in Russia, adding that the two men had discussed United States plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia; Russia is steadfastly opposed to the idea.
Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, said on a visit to Prague on
Sunday that his country was also against the planned US radar. He said the
project was causing a split in NATO. Mr Fico also said America’s anti
missile defence shield was not sufficiently developed and that some of its
elements were unreliable.
The Czech Parliament has yet to vote on whether to allow the US to build the base in Brdy, central Bohemia. Minister Schwarzenberg said on Sunday the only outstanding issue in talks with Washington was a Czech demand for a guarantee the US would clean up any potential environmental damage.
The chairman of the Czech Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský says he has considered quitting due to the threat of excessive politicisation of the court, which has failed to agree on several issues in recent months. Speaking on Czech Television, he said even thought the court itself was not involved in politics, it had been influenced by an increase in confrontation and unfriendliness between the country’s political parties.
Paris Hilton is in Prague, where her boyfriend Benji Madden is playing a concert with his rock band Good Charlotte on Sunday night. Journalists and photographers had been expecting the American celebrity to arrive by plane, and were surprised when she arrived on the band’s tour bus. Hilton later fell and hurt her chin after being pursued by the press in the city centre.
The Czech Republic is very close to reaching agreement with the United
States on increasing its military presence in Afghanistan, Czech Defence
Minister Vlasta Parkanová told reporters. The deployment of around 100
elite Czech troops would come on top of missions approved by the Czech
Parliament last autumn, under which over 400 Czech soldiers were sent to
Czech special units have already taken part in several missions in the war-torn state; two weeks ago the first Czech soldier was killed, in a suicide bombing. Minister Parkanová said if the Czech government and parliament approve the new deployment, the Czech troops will come under the US operation Enduring Freedom, not NATO. She said Czech and US officials had been conducting intensive negotiations in recent days.
Under the plan, the new contingent would take part in operations in dangerous parts of southern or eastern Afghanistan. Prague has also sent a Provincial Reconstruction Team to Logar province.
The Schengen border free system comes into effect at the Czech Republic’s airports from midnight on Saturday. The country’s border posts were abolished just before Christmas, when the Czech Republic became part of the Europe-wide system. Passengers flying to the 24 states which are members of the Schengen zone will no longer need to show their passports, though they will be required to carry some form of identification.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, took part in a ceremony launching Schengen at Prague’s Ruzyně airport on Saturday morning. Mr Topolánek criticised increased police checks near Germany and Austria’s borders with the Czech Republic since the latter joined the border free zone; he said he regarded the controls as harassment of tourists and a breach of the Schengen Agreement. The Brussels-based think tank Centre for European Policy said recently that some tourists coming from the Czech Republic and Poland had more difficulties crossing the border now than before Schengen enlargement.
Prime Minister Topolánek says if Russians inspectors are to be allowed
visit a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic, Moscow will have to
permit Czechs to inspect Russian facilities. He also said that the presence
of Russian officials at an American base in the Czech Republic would only
be with the agreement of the Czech government. Mr Topolánek was reacting
to comments made on Friday by Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry
Rogozin; he said Washington’s suggestion that Czechs and Russians carry
out mutual checks was a joke.
The US wants to locate a radar, part of a global anti-missile defence system, in Brdy, central Bohemia. The issue still has to be voted on the Czech Parliament.