Number of Green Party members attend demonstration against US base

Photo: CTK

Protestors on Saturday came out in Prague to demonstrate once again against the Czech Republic hosting a US radar base as part of a broader missile defense shield. More than 1,000 protestors took part; most were from the political left, though some were Greens who attended despite the fact that their party, a member of the ruling coalition, has tentatively backed the project.

Photo: CTK
The latest poll by CVVM suggests that 68 percent of Czechs oppose a US radar base on Czech territory while only 26 percent are in favour. But the numbers have so far not stopped the prime minister and his government from pushing ahead. Speaking at a conference of European Presidents on Friday the prime minister repeated his conviction the installation would "markedly increase security for the Czech Republic, its allies and neighbours".

Matej Stropnicky, photo: CTK
But not everyone, including some members of the coalition Green Party are buying it and on Saturday they made themselves heard. 24-year-old Matej Stropnicky, deputy chairman of the Greens' national council, was among the more visible. He and a number of supporters strongly oppose the US base on Czech soil and have become something of a thorn in the side of party leader Martin Bursik. Political analyst Petr Just says the development is no surprise:

"It reflects the debate the Greens have been having since they joined the government, ever since the government began talking about the possibility of a US base in the Czech Republic. We witnessed quite a wild debate on this issue during the Greens' national convention when Martin Bursik was on one side and a group of opponents led by Matej Stropnicky on the other. They created intense debate on the issue, which saw the Greens decide for a tentative 'Yes' although they stipulated they would like to see the base under NATO control.

Photo: CTK
"It's in evidence that the Greens aren't really settled on the Left-Right scale: it's natural that the more right-wing groups will be more pro-radar, whereas some within the party lean more towards the Social Democrat or even Communist positions. This is a quite natural behaviour and it will be a question of how strong some groups will be. It can, in the pessimistic version, lead to a crisis within the Greens but so far that remains difficult to predict."

After seven hours of internal debate on Sunday the Greens issued resolutions indicating that for now many unanswered questions remain: technical issues, questions of political impact, NATO's role and more. Given that negotiations with the US only began in May, it will take many months more before a final decision can be reached.