Schwarzenberg’s “terrible traffic” quip fuels speculation of April 4-5 Obama visit

Barack Obama, photo: CTK

The papers are awash with speculation that Air Force One could be touching down in Prague in a few weeks’ time, as President Barack Obama prepares to visit the Czech Republic. The word on the street is that President Obama will stop off in Prague following the NATO summit in France and Germany at the beginning of April, for an informal meeting with leaders of the European Union.

There’s been no official confirmation yet, although that in itself is nothing unusual, as U.S. presidential visits are usually kept under wraps for security reasons. The Czech media quote unnamed diplomatic sources involved in the trip as saying Obama will come to Prague on either April 4th or 5th, possibly staying one night in the Czech capital.

Barack Obama, photo: CTK
The U.S. Embassy in Prague refuses to confirm this, saying it is aware there is a lot of speculation around the visit, but that the White House has not said anything to suggest he might be coming to Prague. The Czech ambassador to Washington simply said “no comment”.

Czech presidential spokesman Radim Ochvat, however, told the Czech News Agency the president’s office had been working on the trip for several weeks, while Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said cryptically – or perhaps not so cryptically – that the visit wasn’t officially confirmed, “but if I were you I’d avoid driving in Prague that weekend, because the traffic is going to be terrible.”

If Obama does come to Prague, it would probably be for his first informal meeting with leaders of the 27 European Union members. The Czech Republic holds the revolving presidency of the EU, so Prague is a logical choice.

The agenda of any talks will likely include American plans to station parts of it missile defence shield on Czech soil. Barack Obama is under pressure to make some sort of announcement on missile defence, although all he’s said so far is that he supports it, but only if it's cost-effective and proven to work. Critics - including many senior Democrats - say it's neither.