I have been trying to ignore “President” Bush’s upcoming visit to Prague, but it has become increasingly difficult. Bush will be here for less than 24 hours – he arrives Monday night between 6 and 9, and he’ll leave sometime Tuesday afternoon.
Last Wednesday, I saw about 20 agents from Bush’s advance security detail having dinner in a pub that I frequent.
The three biggest subjects in the press in relation to Bush’s visit are:
1) the proposed radar base in Brdy, which would be part of the Star Wars missile defence system;
2) negotiations for Czech passport holders to join the US’s visa waiver programme; and
3) road closures and stoppage of public transport whilst Bush is in transit.
The radar base, which I have written about here, here and here, is the reason for Bush’s visit. iDNES.cz, in its special feature on the visit, is emphasising the opposition to the radar base. Although the leading party in the governing coalition, ODS, are for the base, the Green Party, the junior partner in the coalition, are against. The main opposition party, ČSSD, are against. And public opinion is currently around 70% against.
The visa waiver programme is being used as a carrot in the negotiations, which is crap. The Czechs should be in the visa waiver programme on the merits of the Czech Republic’s good relations with the US, and the fact that the Czech Republic is a member of both NATO and the EU. The Americans use the excuse that there are still too many Czechs being refused tourist visas to the US, but that is to a large part due to the arbitrariness of the application and interview process.
Prague-Ruzyně airport will be closed for at least 30 minutes each for Bush’s arrival and departure. They will be using the VIP terminal (terminál jih), so passengers will be allowed to remain in the regular terminals, but the roads in and out of the airport will be blocked. That includes the length of Evropská all the way back into town. Bus and tram service will be interrupted.
Prague Castle and the surrounding area will be closed all day on Tuesday, which includes the roads and the tram lines that go around the castle. Maps of the affected areas are here.
Bush may visit Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty sometime after 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, in which case a lot more roads will be closed, including the magistrála, the main highway that runs past the RFE/RL building.
I think I’ll work from home on Tuesday.