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9 Jul, 2008 21:52

Czechs gather 130,000 signatures against U.S. radar

Anti-military activists in the Czech Republic are planning to continue protests against the deployment of a U.S. radar in their country. Protesters are planning to present a petition signed by 130,000 people at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

It follows the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Prague on Tuesday, where she signed the radar base deal with her Czech counterpart Karel Swarzenberg.

Jan Tamas from Prague’s Humanist Movement believes MEPs will back the campaign because the proposed anti-missile system is a Europe-wide issue.

“This is not something that will concern one country or two countries. They will treat it like something that will have an impact on the security of the whole region. They should have at least a debate about this. I think this could be one of the outcomes of this meeting. This could be a beginning of a true open debate on the level of the European parliament”.

One of the questions the Humanist Movement is asking is: “why an American missile shield in Europe?” That’s also something that puzzles many European politicians. Italian MEP Giulietto Chiesa says there is a lot of bother about it in the European Parliament.

“That’s not only because it is an unreasonable decision. It can badly influence the process of unifying Europe. Two member states of the EU took a decision which affects the security of the whole of Europe”, he said.

Russia continues to fiercely oppose the plans, saying US missiles in Eastern Europe are a threat to its national security. Moscow’s now warning it will aim its missiles at Europe if the radar is built.

Last year Russia offered a compromise: America was invited joint use of the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan, but Washington rejected the offer.

The Czech Humanist Movement says U.S. missiles in Eastern Europe will upset the balance of forces and may lead to an arms race there. They say the joint US-Czech treaty is cause for concern, not only for Czechs but for all Europeans.

The latest campaign to thwart the radar is part of a wide anti-military campaign in the Czech Republic. It comes on the heels of a three-week hunger strike, which in turn led to a relay strike among Czech celebrities opposed to the radar.

The latest opinion polls in the Czech Republic suggest 70% of the population is against the base. So the campaigners of the Humanist Movement say it’s their job to represent the voice of the people. They’re calling for the issue to be put before the Czech people in a referendum.