Czech beer lovers last week launched an internet-based campaign against the possible sale of the world-famous Budějovický Budvar brewery in České Budějovice to the global drinks giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, which produces beer under the Budweiser name. Rumors that the “godfather” lobbyists close to the center-right Civic Democrats (ODS) are planning the sale emerged shortly after Petr Bendl (ODS) took control of the Agriculture Ministry. Meanwhile, the brewery is doing itself no favors by refusing to give details about marketing and other payments as a controversial ministry audit continues.
An exchange of confidential emails between analysts and an undercover intelligence officer working for the US global security think tank Stratfor — issued today by WikiLeaks — signal that the Czechs planned to issue an “ultimatum” to Washington demanding a better deal on F-16 fighter jets for itself and other CEE members of NATO. Otherwise, Prague wants a significant role in the US anti-missile defense project, to counter the Russian “threat.”
The American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR) on Tuesday kicked off four days of events to celebrate the unveiling and dedication of a monument honoring the 28th U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, in Prague. Participating in the events were former Czech President Václav Havel and former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, both honorary co-chairs at AFoCR’s Gala Award Dinner in the Czech capital.
It has become a tradition that during the Karlovy Vary film fest big deals are sealed and the groundwork for political decisions laid. In the Grandhotel Pupp café and on the golf courses one can see the unprecedented concentration of politicians and public servants, top judges, bankers, entrepreneurs, lawyers and lobbyists. While they regularly meet in Prague, at the KVIFF things happen faster.
The long wait to fill the post of Czech ambassador to the US has been taken as symbolic, but former Civic Democrat (ODS) minister Petr Gandalovič finally filled the 12-month long vacancy on July 7. Missile defense has strained bilateral relations, but the Czechs’ desire for a new investment protection deal and the US ambitions to expand the Temelín nuclear plant could heal the rift.
Most Czechs agree that the current bilateral investment treaty with the US is tipped in favor of American investors and opens Prague up to expensive arbitration proceedings. But Ministry of Finance moves to cancel the current deal to get something better are running into opposition in the US and from US business interests here. Support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been tepid as well.
Civic Democrat MP and former Minister of Agriculture Petr Gadalovič looks set to be the new Czech ambassador to Washington, but he is waiting for his security clearance. The government discussed a short-list of candidates for the post of ambassador, which now wait for presidential approval. It is also still unclear who will become ambassador to Ukraine.