Czech Village Casts Vote on US Anti-Missile Defense Shield | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.03.2007
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Czech Village Casts Vote on US Anti-Missile Defense Shield

Residents of a tiny Czech village are to vote in a local referendum on a US proposal to construct a radar station making up part of its anti-missile defense system on the neighboring Jince army base.

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The US plans to set up the system on Polish and Czech soil

Some 88 residents in the small village of Trokavec, situated around two kilometers from the site selected by US military experts for the radar station, are eligible to vote in the referendum.

Strongly opposed to the siting of a radar on Czech soil, a project which is enthusiastically backed by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Trokavec's independent mayor Jan Neoral said he is convinced "everyone will turn out" for the vote.

Whatever the result, the vote will have a "symbolic value" only as the government has resolutely refused the option of a national referendum and instead chosen to seek parliamentary approval of Washington's request, according to Jan Eichler, a security expert at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

Czechs against base

According to a survey by the CVVM institute in March, around six out of 10 Czechs are opposed to hosting the X-band radar station, which would detect a missile attack. Ten interceptor missiles based in Poland would shooting it out of the sky.

US-Unterstützer der geplanten Raketenabwehrstation in der tschechischen Republik

Only a minority of Czechs supports the US missile plans

At a political level, the country's strong Communist Party has led attacks on the proposed base. The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, is demanding a referendum, and the Green Party, which forms part of the center-right governing coalition, wants the base integrated in EU and NATO defense plans.

The proposed rollout of the US missile shield in central Europe has split European countries. Russia has protested the construction of a defense system installed on its doorstep and threatened to build its own system, raising fears of a new arms race.

In the Czech Republic, where memories of Soviet occupation have not faded, opponents of the base have organized a series of demonstrations in the capital Prague and near the site of the proposed installation.

Neighboring villages in the forested, hilly countryside around 60 kilometers from Prague, also intend to hold their own referendums over the next weeks, Neoral said.

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