Prague Welcomes President Obama to the EU Summit
President Barack Obama arrived to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, on Saturday amid political uncertainty in the country. Mr. Obama is the fourth U.S. President to visit to this Central European country of 10.3 million since Communism fell in 1989.
President Obama was greeted by both Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek once Air Force One landed at Prague's Ruzyne airport.
The U.S. President arrived a day ahead of a summit with EU leaders hosted by the outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, a virulent critic of US economic recovery plans.
The Czech Republic hosts the top-level summit with the heads of 27 member states as it holds EU's rotating presidency.
President Obama's visit comes at an awkward time for the Czech leadership. On March 24, the Czech government led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek lost a vote of confidence in a display of political infighting in the middle of deepening credit crisis. The Czech Republic is the third central or eastern European nation to lose its leadership as the region is struggling to cope with growing fears of economic uncertainty.
PRAGUE — When President Obama arrives here on Saturday for a meeting aimed at forging closer trans-Atlantic relations, aides say he has opted for a romantic private dinner with the first lady.
That, rather than a glass of Czech beer with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who last week invoked Satan’s lair to characterize the American president’s economic policies. The Obamas also decided to forgo an official state dinner with Vaclav Klaus, the fiery Czech president.
On the one hand, Mr. Topolanek's rivalry with Mr. Klaus is the core of the instability, and the former will be keen to avoid being upstaged when the EU-US Summit begins after Mr. Obama's castle address.
On the other, Mr. Klaus is known for his staunch opposition to the EU efforts to combat climate change by calling them a luxury in a time of economic hardship.
President Václav Klaus is a vociferous opponent of efforts to combat climate change, which President Obama has made a cornerstone of US policy.
Czech analysts expressed concern that the notably undiplomatic Mr. Klaus, a vociferous critic of state intervention in the economy, would erupt during the Obamas’ visit.
Czech officials say they are privately praying that Mr. Klaus won’t lecture Mr. Obama on how to run the United States economy or offer him his latest book, “Blue Planet in Green Shackles,” which argues that the fight against global warming is a threat to freedom.
Additionally, the Czech government's collapse has potentially serious implications for the European Union as Mr. Topolanek is the acting president of the European Union.
On Sunday, after a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus at the Prague Castle, President Obama will deliver a speech on nuclear non-proliferation at Hradcanske Square. His speech will come as countries across Europe commemorate two decades since the collapse of Communism.
Prague, has been the site of protests in recent months against the planned U.S. missile defense system.
The missile defense system, which was to install radar dishes near Prague and 10 interceptor missiles would be based in Poland, has been the source of testy relation between the US and Russia. Former President George Bush worked hard to reach agreement on its deployment. Russia consistently opposed the missile shield as a threat to its national security, while the United States argued that the shield was needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states" such as Iran.
It is unclear if President Obama will mention missile defense in his Prague speech on nuclear disarmament.
During the EU Summit on April 5, President Obama will hold bilateral talks with Polish officials, during which the missile defense topic is likely to come up.
According to schedule, the U.S. President also plans to meet with former Czech President and legendary dissident Vaclav Havel.
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