Will Czech parliament vote to host part of US missile defence system?

Photo: US Embassy, CTK

Within hours of Friday's confidence vote, the United States officially asked the new Czech government to host part of its planned missile defence system. Prime Minister Topolanek supports the proposed radar base - but will the Czech parliament approve?

Photo: US Embassy,  CTK
Washington has officially asked the Czech Republic to host a radar base which would be part of its planned global missile defence programme, dubbed "son of star wars" by some. Around 200 US soldiers and civilians would work at the base, the first of its type in Europe. The planned launch date is 2011.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek supports the base, saying it would turn the Czech Republic into an "oasis of security". His Civic Democrats control the Senate, meaning the proposal should have a calm passage through the upper house.

NATO radar base in Nepolisy,  photo: CTK
The lower house is a different matter. The Communists are strongly opposed to the radar base, while the Social Democrats are divided. Coalition parties the Christian Democrats and Greens have yet to make their positions clear. A national security committee on the issue is to be set up this week.

As for Czech public opinion, a poll carried out for the Foreign Ministry in December suggested two-thirds would be against a missile interceptor base. But it indicated 60 percent would agree with just a radar.

Will the public have a say in the matter? Not likely. Mr Topolanek has ruled out a referendum; he said a question of such strategic importance should be decided by experts.

Russia has protested against Washington's plan. A senior security official said possible Czech approval would "not pass without consequences".