Czech cabinet takes battle for radar base to countryside
The Czech government held a special session on Wednesday in a small town near the site of the proposed US radar base, part of Washington's plans to build a missile defence system in Central Europe. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek promised local mayors they would receive substantial state funds to improve infrastructure. So far, however, the offer has received a lukewarm response.
There is substantial public opposition to the radar base in the towns and villages dotted around the Brdy military training ground where the radar base is to be built. Most mayors, reflecting that opposition, are opposed to the plan.
The Brdy region is a poor one, and Mr Topolanek said his government would be willing to give the Brdy a substantial cash injection to go towards repairing sewers and roads, regardless of whether the radar base is built or not. He also announced the government was setting up a special commission for the development of the Brdy region, and promised a new survey on the potential health effects of radar.
The mayors' response was cool. Most said they remained opposed to the base, regardless of how much money the government threw at the region, although they did admit the Brdy badly needed investment. One mayor summed it all up by saying it was extraordinary how much attention the region was receiving after being ignored for the last twenty years.
Mr Klvana says he approached five of the country's biggest PR companies but only one - a well known agency called AMI communications - responded, and so they won the tender. It emerged soon afterwards that Mr Klvana had in the past worked with the owners of AMI communications. The opposition seized on that fact, claiming there was a conflict of interest.
Mr Klvana denies that, saying the Czech Republic is a small country where essentially everyone knows everybody. But the manner in which the PR company was chosen does itself appear to have been something of a PR own goal.