Prime Minister Petr Nečas to meet US President Barack Obama

Petr Nečas

Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas is on a brief working visit to the United States where he will be meeting with US President Barack Obama later on Thursday. The agenda of Mr Nečas’ first visit to the Oval Office will be dominated by the multi-billion tender to expand the Czech Temelín nuclear power plant, in which the US firm Westinghouse is one of the bidders.

Barack Obama,  photo: CTK
Jan Richter spoke to Daniel Anýž who is covering the visit for a leading Czech daily, Hospodářské noviny, and asked him whether the US firm Westinghouse will be any closer to getting the Temelín contract after Mr Nečas’s visit to the White House.

“I don’t know. But Temelín is for sure the main topic of the meeting between the Czech prime minister and President Obama in the Oval Office today. In a broader picture, the bid is part of Czech-US cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear energy.

“It’s a big deal for Westinghouse; the American ambassador to Prague, Norman Eisen, told the US Senate in September that it could create 9,000 highly-paid jobs in the US, and he said it was one of the biggest business opportunities for his country world-wide.

“So I don’t know whether Westinghouse will be closer to actually getting the deal after today, but Mr Nečas’ visit is a chance for the Americans to make their case on the top level, that is in the Oval Office”.

Petr Nečas
Do you expect any progress in other issues on the agenda, such as the replacement of the Gripen fighters after 2015, or a Czech bid to buy the US stake in the TAL pipeline?

“We spoke to the Czech prime minister on the plane on the way here, and he was not very open about theses issues. About the Gripen fighters, Mr Nečes said we first have to decide whether we really want to get rid of them after 2015. One of the reporters asked him if we needed fighter jets at all, to which the prime minister replied that a year ago, he though that we perhaps did not. But with the nuclear plants, he now thinks there might be an increased need of protection.

“As far as the pipeline is concerned, Prime Minister Nečas and President Obama will probably talk about the broader issue of energy security.”

Mr Nečas is only the second Czech official, after Václav Havel, to stay at Blair House, the official residence for foreign leaders. Is this a sign of some sort of a new beginning in the Czech-American relations that cooled off somehow since Mr Obama took office?

Blair House,  photo: UpstateNYer,  CC 3.0 license
“This is really interesting, because foreign politicians don’t normally stay at Blair House during their visits. On top of that, former Czech president Václav Havel was a special case in Czech-US relations.

“So I think the Americans wanted to show how much this visit really means to them, and how important it is in the new development of our relations – which are normal, but nothing more, compared with the era of the 1990s and the period between 2001 and 2005 when there were the radar negotiations. I think this might be a new beginning in relations now based on economic cooperation.”