Books on Czech Republic
% of GDP
Update No: 112 - (26/09/06)
New Czech government under fire for supporting US missile
Within its first week in office in early September, the Czech Republic's new
minority government became embroiled in a major political row with opposition
parties over a US project to base anti-ballistic missiles on Czech territory. It
is not quite clear against whom they are to be deployed.
Ostensibly Washington wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in
Europe to reinforce its defences against the threat of a ballistic missile
attack from North Korea or Iran. But it would say that, not that it still has
Moscow in mind. It currently has its eye on either the Czech Republic or Poland
as the favoured home for the new system, rather nearer to Russia than the other
The Czech Republic's new right-wing Civic Democrat government, which finally
took office on September 4th after three months of political wrangling in the
wake of June elections, wholeheartedly backs the US scheme. The Czech
conservatives have long had a strongly Atlanticist orientation and distrust and
dislike the Russians.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has already declared in a television interview
that he is "absolutely in favour" of Czech participation. His foreign
minister Alexandr Vondra, a former Czech ambassador to Washington, has made
similarly upbeat noises. Almost immediately after taking office he said the
missile shield would "reinforce Euro-Atlantic links" and boost his
country's security at a time when "certain threats from Iran cannot be
But the country's second biggest party, the Social Democrats, along with the
Communists are resolutely opposed to the plan. The Communists curiously are
rather popular, mainly with the still numerous poor people, who actually feel
nostalgic for communism.
Hot potato that could bring the government down
If the latest opinion polls are to be believed, most Czech citizens seem to back
the left on this issue. A recent poll by the Stem organisation showed that 51
per cent of the population found the project "unacceptable" and 61 per
cent thought it should be put to a referendum.
The missile issue has become the country's hottest post-election talking point,
with politicians of all colours making daily comments on the question. Outgoing
Social Democrat premier, Jiri Paroubek, has voiced his opposition to the project
in line with an internal poll of party members.
The Communist Party, which called for an exit from Nato's military structures
ahead of the elections, has launched a petition against the US plan, with the
party claiming more than 15,000 signatures. The Communists this week also
presented a constitutional proposal for a national referendum on the issue.
But despite the findings of the opinion polls, few Czechs have actively taken
part in the small number of pacifist or anti-American demonstrations that have
been organised in opposition to the missile scheme.
Nevertheless, many people here see any type of US installation as a form of
foreign military occupation, sparking painful memories of the seven-year German
occupation of the country before and during World War II and the later Soviet
presence, according to the local press.
Supporters of the project have, for their part, called into question the
validity of the latest opinion polls and complain that people have been
misinformed about the missile shield. They point to one Internet site, for
example, which claimed the system would disturb television reception and air
In a bid to scotch such rumours, the Czech foreign ministry has attempted to
stimulate a public discussion about the plans by holding a conference entitled
"Why the Czech Republic should take part in the MD (missile defence)
project." On the same day, the US embassy in Prague launched an Internet
site aimed at educating Czechs about the project. The site points out that the
missile shield "can integrate with emerging Nato concepts for a missile
defence system," aimed at protecting Europe and not threatening Russia,
which has attacked the plans.
Washington says it is waiting for a "positive signal" from Prague
before making a formal request, but it is still carrying on parallel
negotiations with Poland. Unfortunately for the Americans, public opinion in
Poland does not seem any more keen on the scheme.
The United States is likely to take a final decision about the location of the
missile shield before the end of the year, perhaps after a Nato summit in Riga
scheduled for November 28th and 29th, according to US diplomatic sources.
But even if it does choose the Czech option, the final signing of an agreement
would require clearance from the lower house of parliament. That is something
which in the current political context, with left and right wing factions each
having 100 seats, looks unlikely.
With opinions so deeply divided over the issue, Topolanek's Civic Democrat
government could just find itself remembered as one of the most short-lived
administrations in the Czech Republic's short history.
Topolanek visits Czech troops in Kosovo
Premier Topolanek has reinforced the high profile of Czech troops abroad. He
visited Czech troops who serve within the multinational KFOR mission in Kosovo
in late September. Apart from Kosovo, Czech troops operate within foreign
missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, Topolanek indicated that the Czech Republic probably would not send its
troops to southern Lebanon to join U.N. stabilisation forces.
The European Union agreed to send troops to Lebanon in late August and the Czech
Republic promised help, too. The former government of Jiri Paroubek
nevertheless, required that the U.N. Security Council first clarify the mandate
of the multinational military mission. This has yet to happen.
Marshall Centre professor named Czech Minister of Defence
To emphasise the great importance of defence issues in the country, a
Marshall Centre professor has been named the new Minister of Defence for the
Czech Republic. He is one of the top Czech intellectuals.
Dr. Jilí Sedivý, a professor of Central European Security Studies at the
Marshall Centre's College of International and Security Studies, has been asked
by Prime Minister Topolanek to consider returning to his country to assume the
position of Minister of Defence. Sedivý was officially appointed September 4th
along with the rest of the new government.
"We will surely miss Dr Sedivý at the Marshall Centre," said Centre
Director Dr. John P. Rose. "His academic skills are superb and his
understanding of current international defence and security issues is
outstanding. He relates very well to the young leaders from throughout North
America, Europe and Eurasia who study at the Marshall Centre. He has a love and
passion to teach, mentor and work with students. This is a great move for the
Czech Republic and we at the Marshall Centre are proud that Dr. Sedivý was part
of our team," Rose said.
"I loved being in the Marshall Centre and was honoured and inspired working
there," Sedivý said in a farewell message to the Centre's leadership.
"I…decided to accept the honour in order to serve my country. … among
other things, I will have a unique opportunity to test the security sector
theories that I was lecturing on in the Marshall Centre."
Sedivý's background in international security studies goes well beyond his
2-plus years at the Marshall Centre. He is a graduate of Charles University,
Prague, where he earned a doctorate in Political Science, as well as King's
College London, where he earned a master's degree in War Studies. Sedivý
specialized in international security, international politics, international
relations theory and war studies while teaching at the Marshall Centre.
FOOD & DRINK
Czech firm M L Moran bids for Setuza's debt
A roughly CZK four billion claim on food company Setuza may be sold to the firm
M.L. Moran which recently gained over a third of Setuza, says the Aktualne.cz
server, adding that M.L. Moran´s subsidiary OleoFIN has been financing Setuza´s
operation for several months already.
"If we enter Setuza, we would like to sign a set of agreements which would
improve the current relations between the company, the state and the Farming and
Forestry Support and Guarantee Fund [PGRLF]," OleoFIN deputy board chairman
Zdenek Smejkal told the server.
If this strategy succeeds, Setuza would be split into two companies. The
original Setuza would continue producing margarines, stearins, detergents and
The new Setuza would focus on the processing of oilseeds and subsequent
production of biodiesel and bioalcohol, Aktualne.cz reported.
"There are no property links between us and M.L. Moran. They only finance
us through their subsidiary, and it is quite a lot of money. Banks were not
willing to finance us directly," said Tomas Pitr whose name is connected
with the company Cesky olej, Setuza´s majority owner.
M.L. Moran became the co-owner through its another subsidiary Chapelco only
recently. At a general meeting, it was announced that it newly holds 37.3 per
cent of the shares. Cesky olej has 53.4 per cent.
In the summer of this year, several companies wanted to buy in a public tender
the claim which was transferred from bail-out agency CKA to the PGRLF and whose
existence Setuza has not acknowledged.
The highest bid was submitted by the firm ABCredit from investment group PPF
Investments controlled by Petr Kellner. M.L. Moran also took part in the tender
through another subsidiary and was placed second. The tender was abolished in