Press Conferences

24. 1. 2007 10:28

Press Briefing – Prime Minister of the Czech Government Mirek Topolánek after meeting of the Security Council of the State, Wednesday 24 January

Martin Schmarcz, Director, Press Department: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you at this press briefing following the meting of the Security Council of the State. Premier Mirek Topolánek will be the first to speak and thereafter President Václav Klaus will tell you what he has to say.

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: Good morning all, welcome at the press conference after the meeting of the Security Council of the State. I don’t know if this was for the first time, but certainly was it after a long period, that the meeting was attended by the President of the Republic, Chairpersons of both Chambers of the Parliament and even Chairpersons of Parliamentary Committees. The attendants of this extraordinary meeting of the S.C.S. were informed about all the legal, political and military aspects of the potential construction of a radar station of the anti-missile protection system in the Czech territory. By its resolution, the Security Council of the State imposed on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence to form an expert team to examine the issues of location of the radar station within the system and to prepare the Czech negotiating positions, because the negotiations are now only starting. The S.C.S. also imposed on the mentioned Ministers and the Ministers of Interior and of Informatics to evaluate on a continuous basis, in co-operation with the intelligence services, the intelligence aspects of the possible threats and risks related to the deployment of this station and submit their findings to the S.C.S. We of course also imposed on the Ministers, through the Government, to open negotiations with the self-government bodies concerned and with the relevant Committees of both Chambers of the Parliament. I will only say, as an introduction, that the decision to possibly locate the station in the Czech territory is a sovereign decision of the Czech Republic. The Constitution clearly states that any decision on the deployment of any foreign personnel in our territory must be made by both Chambers of the Parliament. In this case the so-called Presidential Treaty would also be involved, so that the decision, after approval by both Chambers of the Parliament, would also be subject to ratification by the President of the Republic. Building the anti-missile system is in full compliance with the plans of the NATO – this point is a frequently discussed issue. The location of the station in Central Europe is to enhance security not only in the Czech Republic but also security of all European allies. I think that likening, in the media, this radar station to the [former] presence here of the Soviet occupational forces is wrong because at that time it was forced on us. Today it is a matter of a sovereign decision and, in addition, it is purely a matter of defence. We also spent much time discussing the legal aspects of the location of the unit. And it is clear that the site will not be excluded from the jurisdiction of Czech authorities, and the framework treaty will comply with the NATO SOFA treaty status, where it is clearly specified that the site will not be excluded from the Czech territory. I think that the recent objections that it endangers our relations with Russia or also with China are very wrong because the defence system cannot at all be used for protection against Russian ballistic missiles. Consultations between the USA and Russia on this system have been held on a long-term basis and we even believe that this system of anti-missile defence will be gradually extended over the entire clear-headed world. I would like to say that the decision on building the base is still far from being made. The negotiations will continue for a number of months and the entire process may last about a year. Today this act of the S.C.S. and the related decision to be made by the Government are in fact a sort of answer, or note, to the US side that the process only has started. I can promise on behalf of the Government that all the steps will be made in a very fair and transparent manner, with maximum information being available, of course, to those making the decision, i.e. the legislators, as well as to the public. From now on I am clearly at your service in this respect. Thank you for your attention.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Now the President of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus will speak.

Václav, Klaus, President of the Czech Republic: Good morning. The Prime Minister has in essence described to you all what the S.C.S. deliberated on today. So I can only add some comments. I perhaps have only one point to stress for myself – I expressed my consent with the fact that at today’s meeting the S.C.S. gave a green light to continued negotiations with the USA in this matter, as well as to launching a political process inside the Czech Republic. It is therefore evident that a decision of this type is not an executive decision, i.e., it is not a decision of the Government; it is, of course, an utterly political decision, and the discussions in both Chambers of the Parliament will be a key to it. This is, I think, clear to all participants and the Czech public should also know this clearly. It is also a very positive aspect of today’s meeting that the approach to the negotiations is not led by the feeling that the matter was already decided long ago and that there is no point in discussing all the further details. We all know well that the magic, or problem, is as a rule hidden in thousands of details, and therefore I laid much emphasis on ensuring that the negotiation process, which is to follow, is very thoroughly focused on the details where problems may be hidden, and that all those involved in the process pay maximum attention to this.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Ladies and Gentlemen, now you may ask your questions. I only note that you may also address your questions to the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Jan Jelínek, Haló noviny: Mr. Premier, you said that … (the remaining part of the question was incomprehensible).

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: I have not seen any such statement by President Putin anywhere. And as to the statement made by a general, it can be taken as expression of the view of an interested person. I hope the general concerned is not one of those that were involved in the occupation of the Czech Republic before 1989. Of course, this is rather a joke. I think all the expert meetings at the level of the USA, and also the NATO, with the Russian Federation have continued for quite a long time. The treaty on the limitation of anti-missile defence has been practically terminated during these negotiations. I think that the Russian Federation is being kept informed and that this isolated exclamation will certainly have no adverse impact on the relationships and negotiations between the NATO and the Russian Federation and between the USA and the Russian Federation, nor will it affect the bilateral relationships between the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation. I am deeply convinced about this.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Please, Nova Television.

Lucie Alexová, Nova Television: Do you think that a referendum is to be held, concerning the base?

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: There are similar bases, though perhaps of a different nature, in 14 Member States of the European Union, and a referendum on this matter was held in none of them. This is not a subject for a referendum anywhere, and our Constitution does not say anything to this effect. If in spite of this our legislators decide to hold a referendum, it would of course be necessary to pass either a general or special constitutional law on referendum, for which, according to the Constitution, a three-fifths quorum is necessary in both Chambers of the Parliament. And just a marginal note: there even was no referendum on our accession to the NATO. I believe that the Constitution does not envisage a referendum in respect of the security issues.

Daniel Takáč, Czech Television: Good morning. Mr. Premier, you mentioned that the negotiating positions are going to be prepared and that we will have an expert group for that. What conditions are we going to defend in relation to the USA? Were you talking about that? Lifting the visa regime, and any other things? And also whether you are going to meet the requirement of the Green Party to incorporate it in the NATO system as such.

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: On your second question: this is in fact the case. The plan to prepare a feasibility study in the anti-missile defence area was adopted at the Prague Summit in 2002. The feasibility document has recently been approved at the Summit in Riga, where we have been with Mr. President. The Alliance continues in preparing a similar anti-missile defence system. It is evident from the negotiations between the USA and the Alliance that the system that is planned to be built in Central Europe will be complementary with the NATO system – and in fact it cannot be otherwise, because it is understood already now that if the system is built in our country it will protect the Czech territory as well as, of course, the territory of our allies – and this, by the way, also means the application of the Washington Treaty establishing the NATO. And as to your first question, I think that the conditions are not quid pro quo conditions, although in the final analysis this may contribute to the negotiations on limiting the visa liability, which is a matter to be discussed by the US Congress. Nevertheless, our main point is to ensure that the statute of the base is perfectly negotiated in legal terms and that all the related details are well discussed. And in this respect, in fact, the work is just starting.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Please. Ladies and gentlemen, three more questions at the maximum.

Martin Maruniak, Markíza Television: Mr. Premier, you said that the decision is an utterly political decision and that a definitive decision has not yet been made. If you decide that the base is to be located in the Czech Republic, are you preparing any communication campaign for the public?

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: The communication campaign will of course be launched immediately. Now, from 2002 and after the Government’s decision in 2004, the negotiations as such have in fact only been started today. One point is that certain expert discussions have been held for four years and that there have been some discussions on that matter, but the other point is that the process is actually starting now, based on the exchange of official notes, perhaps “letters of understanding” or something like that. This means that the process is being commenced. The communication campaign must be launched in parallel. It does not depend on the Parliament’s decision. This means that we are applying a communication strategy. The resolution of the S.C.S. meeting also contains a point on starting negotiations with the self-government bodies in the area where the unit could be located. Next week we are starting negotiations with the individual Parliamentary Committees – foreign, defence, security, and the relevant Committee in the Senate, so we are starting the communication campaign immediately. This is not directly associated with the approval process, which is a matter for the farther future.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Please, Hospodářské noviny and then the last question.

Robert Břešťan, Hospodářské noviny: Good morning, I have a question to Mr. President. You said that a proble may be hidden in thousands of details. Are you aware of any problem already now?

Václav, Klaus, President of the Czech Republic: I think there is no need to run ahead of things. The point really is that the things have been started. By what I said I only wanted to emphasise this fact. Not only I but also other members of the S.C.S. just stressed that it is impossible to accept a draft treaty proposed by the other party without a serious discussion and attention and that we should clash over many details and try to do our best to negotiate a solution that will be favourable to us. This I think is the obligation of the Government.

Daniela Urbánková, Slovak Television: I don’t know if this question should rather be addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It has been mentioned here that the debate on the location of the radars could have an influence on the situation around our visa liability in relation to the USA. Could you comment on this?

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Not directly. These matters, of course, are not in principle interconnected. But the atmosphere in the Congress, when deciding on whether the Czech Republic is to be admitted in the programme, can be substantially improved if we show we are a faithful ally of the USA and loyal to the plans of the USA and NATO concerning the defence of Europe against ballistic missiles. This is possible, but there is no direct interconnection.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Now definitely the last question. Czech Television.

Daniel Takáč, Czech Television: Mr. Minister, I have a question on the relations with Russia. Although the matter is being discussed at the international level between NATO and Russia, are there to be any contacts in this respect between the Czech Republic and Russia, contacts between diplomats, an explanation campaign in relation to Russia, or any initiative on our side?

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I think, there is not going to be any initiative on our side. Nothing has so far been heard from the Russian side, except the statement of a general, as known. But, saving your reverence, a General of Cosmic Forces of the Russian Federation is not a partner to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Mr. President would like to add something.

Václav, Klaus, President of the Czech Republic: I would only like to add that this aspect of our relations with neighbouring states, Russia and others, is a relevant issue. I think that my planned visit to President Putin in April will be a good opportunity to discuss these matters seriously and to prevent this from leading to any dispute or conflict. And tomorrow evening I am meeting President Kaczyński of Poland in Warsaw, which is an occasion to talk about this with the Polish side.

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: Just a few words to add. Of course, although no official negotiations have now been held with the Russian Federation, we think there will be a diplomatic offensive towards all neighbouring countries, including, of course, an explanatory campaign for the Russian Federation, and of course also at the EU level. This I think is a matter of course, nothing extraordinary.

Martin Schmarcz, Director of the Press Department: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for now. Naturally, you will be getting further information as the negotiation progresses.

Mirek Topolánek, Premier of the Czech Republic: Thank you and see you again.


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