Village of Trokavec says "No" to radar base in back yard
The little village of Trokavec, nestling on the edge of the Brdy Hills, found itself in the eyes of the world's media on Saturday, as local people voted in a referendum on plans to place part of the U.S. missile defence shield in its backyard. Trokavec lies less than two kilometres from the site of a planned radar station, and the inhabitants are almost unanimously opposed to the idea.
"The main reason is health, and the negative effect of radiation from the radar facility on the inhabitants of Trokavec and other villages. But there are also political reasons. Building this radar station will help to create a new arms race, new mutual suspicions and will violate agreements that existed when the Czech Republic joined NATO, in particular the agreement on short and medium range missiles. In other words, it's craziness, and we can't see a reason for it."
Seventy kilometres away in Prague, activists opposed to the base marched through the city centre and peace campaigners lit flaming torches in the shape of the peace sign on the Old Town Square. Recent opinion polls show a majority of Czechs against the idea. But there's also a campaign in favour of the base. Film director and producer Vaclav Marhoul, one of the group's spokesmen, says people opposed to the radar station are ill-informed:
The radar base is still far from becoming reality. The Czech government has said yes, in theory, but the facility would be manned by American soldiers. The stationing of any foreign troops on Czech soil needs the approval of parliament, and there the coalition has no guaranteed majority. And analysts point out that the plan to extend missile defence to Poland and the Czech Republic hasn't even been discussed yet by the U.S. Congress - and it's Congress which holds the purse strings.