Prague - As the negotiations between the US government and its allies in Poland and the Czech Republic on hosting elements of the American anti-missile defense shield on their soil draw to a close, the two Central/Eastern European neighbours try to find a common ground.
The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is to meet his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk on Thursday next week.
A source in the PM's office told Aktuálně.cz the meeting's goal will be to fine-tune the strategy before the two leaders' separate negotiations with the US president George Bush on the issue.
Role of NATO to be decided
Topolánek is to meet Bush at the end of February. Hospodářské noviny (HN) daily put the likely date, which is still being worked out, as February 27th.
Details of the draft agreement on hosting a US radar in the Brdy region west of Prague will be on the table for the two leaders to discuss during the visit.
Czech government is then expected to submit the draft agreement to the parliament, but not before the next NATO summit takes place in Bucharest in April.
"It is to be decided there whether the whole undertaking will be a joint effort of the USA and NATO," Topolánek explained for HN.
Donald Tusk, the head of the Polish cabinet since late last year, will be the first one to meet Bush, though. His trip to Washington is to take place later this month.
Wooing the opposition
Last time a Czech PM was received in the White House was in 2003 when George Bush met with Vladimír Špidla, who since then moved to Brussels where he works as the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
Bush also discussed the radar issue with Czech political leaders during his two-day visit of Prague last June.
He not only met with Topolánek and the President Václav Klaus, but made it a point to see the leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek, whose Social Democrats condition their support for the radar on the NATO's clear participation in the defense shield project.
Paroubek also went to Washington late last year to talk with representatives of both the Republicans and the Democrats in the Congress and to gauge their mood vis-a-vis the anti-missile defense shield. He reportedly came back "unconvinced".