Britain's EU commissioner for trade, Peter Mandelson, came to Prague on Tuesday to hold a speech at an international business conference. Before the event, Mr Mandelson met members of the Czech government to discuss - above all - economic issues.
Known as a an advocate of free trade and opponent of protectionism, Peter Mandelson came to Prague to make "a rather strong speech", as he put it, about the need for Europe to be open in its trading, economic relations and acceptance of investment across borders, as well as its need for a single market for services.
After meeting Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, Mr Mandelson thanked the Czech government for its support in the European Commission for the "measures of openness" and he also had other words of praise for the Czech Republic.
"The influence exercised by the Czech government at all levels in the European Union is strong, is progressive, and it is contributing to the openness and dynamism that we need to see in the European Union. Of course, the Czech Republic offers a rather good example: better average growth than the rest of Europe, lower average unemployment than the rest of Europe, lower public debt than in many other parts of Europe. In all these ways the Czech Republic is showing a strong lead and a good example to the other members of the European Union."
Peter Mandelson and Cyril Svoboda also touched upon the boycott of Danish goods in some countries in reaction to the publication of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. Mr Svoboda called the protests in some Arab countries an overreaction. He said Europe needed to have a firm stand on the issue, because, as he said, in some countries symbols of European countries are being assaulted. Commissioner Mandelson agreed with Minister Svoboda on the issue.
"I share the minister's concern about the attacks on European goods and European embassies which we are seeing across the Middle East. We do not want to offer provocation to those in the Muslim world, equally there should not be an overreaction, as we have seen. So there needs to be both sensitivity and moderation shown on both sides, and calm restored in this very important economic relationship."
During Tuesday's meeting, Foreign Minister Svoboda also told Commissioner Mandelson that the Czech Republic is very much interested in the planned European technology institute being located in the Czech Republic.
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