Greens ultimately to decide whether radar base gets green light or not

How likely is it that the parliament will approve the stationing of the radar base on Czech soil – a crucial prerequisite? Where are the potential pitfalls? We analyse what lies ahead for Mirek Topolánek’s centre-right coalition.

Mirek Topolánek and Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
Alexandr Vondra certainly has reason to be satisfied with Point 37 of NATO’s Bucharest Declaration – the bit that deals with the U.S. missile defence shield - although it’s not quite the unmitigated victory described by some in the Czech and international media. NATO merely declares - "We are exploring ways to link this capability with current NATO missile defence efforts as a way to ensure that it would be an integral part of any future NATO wide missile defence architecture."

But that declaration – lukewarm as it is – will be pored over and analysed by politicians and experts in the Czech Republic for months to come. The reason is simple. The radar base – to be built about 75km southwest of Prague in the Brdy Hills – will be manned by American soldiers. Their presence on Czech soil will be governed by a treaty – two treaties actually – which must be ratified by both houses of parliament. And there lies the rub.

Prime Minister Topolánek has a wafer-thin majority in the lower house of parliament. His centre-right coalition controls 103 seats in the 200-seat parliament. But those 103 votes include six seats belonging to the Green Party. For the radar base to be approved, Mr Topolánek will need at least four of the six Green MPs to vote yes. And the Green Party appears deeply divided on the radar base.

Martin Bursík,  photo: CTK
The party’s pragmatic chairman Martin Bursík says an American pledge that the radar base will become part of a NATO system meets Green Party demands on the issue. Deputy chairman Ondřej Liška disagrees. He says it is too early to call the U.S. missile defence shield a NATO project, and also describes the NATO declaration as extremely vague.

The Green Party’s policy statement on the matter – approved by the party leadership – calls for a “binding guarantee from the government of the United States” that the European components of the missile defence shield will form part of NATO. Many – perhaps most – of the Green Party’s rank and file members oppose the plan. Some are calling for a party referendum on the issue.

The party’s national leadership will meet this weekend to discuss whether the U.S. pledge constitutes such a binding guarantee. If it does, Mr Topolánek can breathe easy. If it doesn’t, much work lies ahead. Either way, it seems it will be the Greens who will decide whether the radar base gets the green light or not.