Former US President Bill Clinton to visit Prague in March

The 42nd US president is set to be the keynote speaker at the Our Security Cannot Be Taken for Granted conference in Prague on March 12.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 23.02.2024 11:06:00 (updated on 23.02.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is set to be the keynote speaker at the Our Security Cannot Be Taken for Granted conference in Prague on March 12, commemorating 25 years of Czech NATO membership, according to the organizing Jagello 2000 association.

Alongside Clinton, speakers include former NATO Secretary General George Robertson, Czech President Petr Pavel, and other top Czech officials. Pavel extended the invitation to Clinton for the event at the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle, where discussions on Czech NATO membership and security will take place. Clinton served as U.S. president from 1993 to 2001.

The conference organizers highlighted a significant aspect of Clinton’s presidency, noting that at the beginning of his first term, he articulated a vision for Europe – a continent devoid of conflicts, united, and democratic. Emphasizing the importance of ensuring Europe’s freedom, Clinton’s vision included inviting Central and Eastern European democracies to join NATO. The successful expansion of the transatlantic alliance in March 1999, incorporating the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, marked a historic step toward realizing this vision.

Clinton first visited as a student in 1970

Clinton has made multiple visits to Prague, with his initial trip in 1970 as a 24-year-old student. In January 1994, during a meeting with then Czech President Václav Havel, Clinton, the 42nd U.S. president, declared that NATO expansion was not a matter of “if” but “when.” During the 1994 visit, Clinton famously played his saxophone at the Reduta Jazz Club and had a beer with Havel and Madeleine Albright at U Zlatého Tygra pub.

Subsequent visits took place in October 2001 for the Forum 2000 international conference, November 2005 for the Madrid Club meeting, and December 2011 for Václav Havel’s state funeral, further underscoring his connection to the Czech capital.

The current iteration of the conference marks its eleventh year. Its focus extends beyond evaluating the Czech Republic’s 25-year NATO membership to examining the alliance’s future amid the evolving security landscape and threats. Notably, NATO will commemorate its 75th founding anniversary on April 4.

Clinton in 1994 at U Zlatého Tygra pub in Prague
Clinton in 1994 at U Zlatého Tygra pub in Prague.

Speakers at Prague Castle will include Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Minister of Defense Jana Černochová, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský. The traditional political discussion will also feature representatives from opposition movements ANO, represented by Karel Havlíček, and the Freedom and Direct Democracy party (Tomio Okamura).

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Addressing the theme of connecting external and internal security, police chief Martin Vondrášek and fire rescue service general director Vladimír Vlček will participate in the conference. National security adviser Tomáš Pojar and Chief of the General Staff Karel Řehka will debate the future of NATO.

The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary became NATO members on March 12, 1999. A survey by the Center for Public Opinion Research of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (CVVM) revealed that two-thirds of Czechs are satisfied with their country’s NATO membership, with 26 percent expressing dissatisfaction.

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