Polish-Czech border

Polish and Czech police forces have strengthened cooperation two months after the two countries joined the Schengen zone, which allows citizens to cross the border without any control. Last week joint Polish-Czech patrols started work for the first time. The patrols consist of three officers: two from the country in which they operate and one from the other country. Such patrols have started work in the city of Cieszyn, which lies in both Poland and the Czech Republic, where the city is also known as Cesky Tesin. The patrols will also work in the border region of Opolet.

The binational patrols will be commanded by police chiefs of the country in which they will be active. The chiefs will also provide equipment and fuel for the patrols. The main work will be done by the two resident officers of the country while the third officer will mostly serve as translator. For example, he won’t be able to issue parking fines or arrest suspects. A few dozen policemen have already been trained to work on both sides of the border. They have learned the basics of the other language as well as the local regulations. Their task will be to increase security in both countries while assisting each other’s national police when abroad.

Such cooperation was initiated earlier by Polish and German authorities in the cities of Zgorzelec, Poland, and Goerlitz, Germany. In Cieszyn, police plan to expand their collaboration to other areas and to open a coordination center in a former border checkpoint building. Cieszyn has been a city with a mixed Polish-Czech-German population since its beginnings in the 9th Century. It was divided into Cieszyn and Cesky Tesin in 1920 after a border dispute between newly established Poland and Czechoslovakia. Since the fall of communism, the cities have experienced growth on both sides of the border. Now they have a combined population of 60,000.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said late last week that both principle agreements over a U.S. anti-missile base in the country could be negotiated by an April 2-4 NATO summit in Bucharest. “The main agreement should be, I will not say signed, but I would say negotiated very quickly. On the smaller agreement, the SOFA agreement, where there are still some technical problems, I think we will be able to complete negotiations just ahead of the NATO summit in Bucharest,” Topolanek said on Czech public television of the April meeting that will gather NATO leaders and heads of state.

The second, so-called SOFA agreement – on rules for U.S. anti-missile base staff to be stationed in the country – has lagged behind the main diplomatic deal. U.S. and Czech negotiators should restart negotiations over it Wednesday in Prague and continue until Friday, Defense Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek told AFP. Deputy Czech Defense Minister Martin Bartak last week suggested this part of the deal over U.S. plans to site a tracking radar in the Czech Republic, twinned with 10 interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland, might only be tied up “within one or two months” if there was an “obliging approach” from the Americans.

In his televised remarks, Topolanek also criticized Polish moves to seek U.S. help in modernizing its army as part of an antimissile shield deal, amid increasing fears that attempts by Prague and Warsaw to coordinate their negotiations with the U.S. are unraveling. “Their [the Polish] negotiating position, in this sense and fashion, is somewhat arguable according to me, but I hope that we will get agreement with the Americans and that we will go ahead with this project together because it is in the interests of European NATO members,” Topolanek said. Asked whether the Czechs would sign a deal without the Poles, the Czech premier said Prague had prepared for “various scenarios.” “I do not want to publicize them when they still do not threaten,” he added. Topolanek also excluded “any notable changes” in Russian foreign policy if the frontrunner in the recent presidential elections, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, succeeds Vladimir Putin as expected.

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