Rice, Schwarzenberg sign agreement on US radar base

Condoleezza Rice and Karel Schwarzenberg, photo: CTK

Shortly before 3 pm this Tuesday the Czech Republic and the United States signed a treaty in Prague on the stationing of a US radar base on Czech soil: part of US plans for a broader missile defence shield in Europe. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice together with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg signed the agreement at Černín Palace – the Foreign Ministry in the Czech capital. Our reporter Jan Richter was at the scene and joined us in the minutes following the signing.

Condoleezza Rice and Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: CTK
He described the details of the major event:

“The signing ceremony on Tuesday took place in the great hall at Černin Palace, the seat of the foreign ministry, and of course is a very significant event in the history of the Czech Republic. The signing was up to Karel Schwarzenberg and Condoleezza Rice but of course others long involved in missile defence and the negotiating process were also in attendance: other government ministers such as Cyril Svoboda, Alexandr Vondra – the minister for European affairs – and of course the head of the missile defence project, US Army General Obering. The ceremony symbolically took place in the hall where almost exactly 16 years ago the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in July 1991. The historic significance of course also wasn’t lost on Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who compared the agreement to a famous decision in the past, at a press briefing with Mrs Rice. Mirek Topolánek:

Condoleezza Rice and Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
“Once before in history we were in a similar situation as today and we failed. We did not accept the Marshall Plan. We can not afford to make such a mistake twice.”

Jan Richter, what do you expect will be the reaction by the opposition or even the public, which polls have repeatedly suggested that many do oppose the radar plan?

Photo: CTK
“Even before now the opposition has already said that if they win the next general election they will try and dissolve any agreement between the Czech Republic and the US, they, meaning the Social Democrats and the Communists say they will do their best to withdraw from the treaty and leave behind the project. As for opposition from the public, anti-radar protestors are also planning demonstrations for Tuesday afternoon. They claim that as much as 70 percent of the population continues to oppose the radar plan.”

Even signed, there is no certainty the deal will make it through Parliament, either…

“That is correct. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek appears very confident that the treaty will be ratified by the Czech Republic but there are other indications it won’t be that easy: there some politicians even within the coalition, for example, who are against the radar, so this could still play out very differently than the prime minister expects and the whole project could still come to a crashing halt.”