Czech officials comment on Obama's election

CzechNews
5. 11. 2008 14:35
Will Barack Obama scrap plans to deploy a missile defence radar on Czech soil? Opinions differ on how much the new president will change the US foreign policy.
Vítěz prezidentských voleb Barack Obama se chystá vystoupit před svými voliči.
Vítěz prezidentských voleb Barack Obama se chystá vystoupit před svými voliči. | Foto: Reuters

Prague - While the opposition Social Democrats have welcomed the election of Barack Obama with excitement, top Czech government officials believe there will be no significant changes of the US foreign policy.

"In his election campaign, Barack Obama created many expectations about solving both domestic and global problems. The whole world will be watching now, thrilled to see how Obama will fulfil his promises," said Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek.

The premier added that he was not surprised by the outcome of the vote and that he does not expect the Czech-US relations to change in any significant way.

President Václav Klaus sent Obama a congratulatory telegram, in which he invited the new US president to visit Prague soon.

"We have not forgotten that the US contributed to the foundation of our modern state, whose 90th anniversary we celebrated this year. Recently, we have deepened our relationship by allying our countries in NATO," Klaus said.

PM Mirek Topolánek: The world will be watching with grand expectations.
PM Mirek Topolánek: The world will be watching with grand expectations. | Foto: Tomáš Adamec, Aktuálně.cz

Paroubek: 'Self-reflection and change'

While the premier and the president limited themselves to emphasizing common ties between the two countries and expressing sober expectations, the opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD) did not try to conceal their excitement.

"In many respects, this is a historic election and a hope not only for the US, but also for the whole world," said ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek. "America has showed that it is capable of deep self-reflection and radical change. We honestly congratulate to the American people."

Some ČSSD officials have also expressed hopes that Obama's election may modify the US foreign policy, especially when it comes to the US plans to build a missile defence radar base on Czech soil. Although, Obama previously indicated that he supports the project.

MP Jan Hamáček thinks Obama may scrap the radar project.
MP Jan Hamáček thinks Obama may scrap the radar project. | Foto: Poslanecká sněmovna

"It is hard to predict what will follow. At least, the new president will revise fundamentally the steps made by the Bush administration in the sphere of security policy," says MP and foreign policy expert Jan Hamáček (ČSSD), adding that the ongoing financial crisis could force Obama to curtail spending.

"The USD 711 billion defence budget will be very hard to maintain. New foreign policy priorities will be set and the US radar base in the Czech Republic may not be one of them," Hamáček told Aktuálně.cz.

MP Olga Zubová (Green Party) also said that expected changes in the US foreign policy and the financial crisis might make Obama revise the radar plans.

Americans pick first black president

The Communist Party (KSČM) does not expect any significant changes.

"Our expectations are very earthbound. It is most likely that the US will neither change its stance on the radar base project nor end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says Pavel Kováčik, head of the KSČM deputy group. He adds that the US voters have expressed their desire for change as well as their discontent with the politics of the Republican Party and George Bush in particular.

"It is a good thing that, after the US society was very racist for a long time, it has elected its first African-American president. But it may also be that Americans voted for Obama because they were so mad on George Bush," adds Kováčik.

Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič (ODS) believes that the US voters' choice was motivated above all by the financial crisis. "Americans felt that their wallets were a more important topic in this election than security," he said.

 

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