US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg signed an agreement on Tuesday on the planned deployment of a U.S. radar base on Czech soil. To take effect, the treaty will still need to be approved by the Czech Parliament and signed by President Václav Klaus. The radar base is meant to be part of a US global missile defence shield. The proposed radar in the Czech Republic would be linked to a missile base in neighbouring Poland to counter the threat of an attack from so called “rogue” states such as Iran. Mrs Rice said on Tuesday that talks with Poland remained incomplete and that she didn’t yet know the date by which the treaty on US missile base on Polish soil may be signed.
Hundreds of people have gathered at Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest against the visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a demonstration organised by the No to Bases Initiative. The protesters plan to march from top of the square to the American Embassy. Another demonstration against the radar was staged earlier on Tuesday by Greenpeace activists. Several dozens of radar supporters met outside the Foreign Ministry building on Tuesday afternoon.
Nearly 50 percent of Czechs believe that Czech parliament and the president should not approve the treaty on the deployment of a US radar base on Czech soil signed on Tuesday by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency in July. Around 50 percent of respondents think that the parliament should vote only after the US presidential elections in November.
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.
Russia still perceives the plan to build part of the US anti-missile
shield in central Europe as a threat to its own security, but it will not
intimidate anyone, Russian general Yevgeni Buzhinski said on Tuesday
his speech at the headquarters of the Social Democratic Party in Prague.
Buzhinski, who is in charge of negotiations on the issue, said Russia had
doubts about the alleged danger cited as the main reason behind the
Russia strongly opposes the base, arguing that it would pose a threat to the country’s security. Russian news agency Interfax on Tuesday quoted a senior source at the Russian Foreign Ministry, who said the US deal with the Czech Republic “cancelled out” an agreement between Moscow and Washington to consult on the issue. The source was also quoted as saying that the deal has complicated problems of security in Europe.
The Czech Republic has become a member of the European Space Agency. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and European Space Agency head Jean-Jacques Dordain on Tuesday signed an agreement on Czech accession to the prestigious space research institution. The Czech Republic has become the first post-communist country to do so. The Czech membership in ESA is expected to increase the number of space-related activities in the country and help the Czech Republic in its campaign to become the seat of the Galileo Agency.
University graduates from the Czech Republic and other countries that entered the EU in 2004 might have free access to the German labour market as of 2009, the daily Saechsische Zeitung reported, referring to the government’s labour immigration plan. The German government reportedly plans to soften conditions for foreigners applying for long-term residence permits. However, it still plans to postpone the complete opening of the labour market to workforce from EU newcomer states until 2011.
A law that severely restricts drinking in public places has come into effect in the city of Prague. The law, passed by the city’s municipal authorities gives the police some leeway to deal with public drinking. An immediate on the spot fine of up to 1000 crowns can be levied, while the fine can go as high as 30,000 crowns if the matter goes to court. The ban is not absolute, and gauges the seriousness of the offence against various factors. Drinking near schools, metro stations and hospitals will be considered most serious, while drinking near food vendors and pubs will be permitted. The move is primarily intended to cut down on the number of derelicts who frequently drink around the streets of Prague.
Details of the controversial agreement which will allow the US to deploy a missile-defence radar on Czech soil have been leaked to the press. The leak comes a day before the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to sign the document in Prague, during a visit to Europe. At present, the agreement has been approved by the government, but still needs to be ratified by parliament. The agreement gives a nod to multilateral NATO commitments, but also re-affirms the bilateral nature of the anti-missile system. Up to 250 American personnel are permitted at the site in the Czech military base in Brdy, but the document also allows for a Czech overseer to be based at the site. The document also gives a two-year termination notice requirement, should either party wish to withdraw from the agreement.