New book maps the Czech Republic's road to EU and NATO accession

04-02-2005

The Czech Institute of International Relations has just published a book on the evolution of Czech foreign policy since the country split from Slovakia in 1993. The book provides an in-depth look at the country's dealings with its foreign neighbours up to the time of EU accession in 2004.

Dr Vladimir Handl from the Institute of International Relations is one of the authors of the book. So what is the rationale behind publishing a study of this nature?

"Well the rationale was to sum-up the experience of Czech foreign policy since the time of independence in 1993 and before accession to the European Union, because we think that European Union membership for the Czech Republic naturally changes the framework within which Czech foreign policy will be defined and implemented."

The new book looks at the development of Czech foreign policy up to EU accession in 2004. It seeks to pinpoint where the country has been successful in its foreign dealings and to analyse the lessons that can be learned from any perceived failings.

So what does Mr Handl think are the biggest achievements of Czech foreign policy over the last decade?

"I think of course the major success stories have been the development of friendly and co-operative relations with our neighbours, and parallel to that obviously Czech membership of NATO and the European Union. These are the simple priorities which have been achieved."

The book highlights how Czech foreign policy was very clear-cut over the last eleven years, with EU and NATO accession being the main objectives. Although the Czech Republic was very successful in its aggressive pursuit of these goals, Dr Handl warns that the dominance of these issues means that the country has lagged behind in other areas of foreign policy:

"It means that the Czech Republic hasn't developed enough initiatives in other dimensions of foreign policy - the attitude to globalization, the attitude to development countries or even some of the hotspots in the world. The Czech Republic developed reactive policies to these areas as opposed to active, formative attitudes. What we suggest in the book is that, with EU accession behind us, the Czech Republic is now in a position where it has to decide where to go and where to define its priorities within the framework of its new role within the European Union as well as in relation to these burning issues."

The study also looks at how Czech foreign policy may develop in the future, particularly in regard to the role Czechs can play in helping shape an EU foreign policy now that it is a fully-fledged member. So does Dr Handl see any potential areas of conflict which might damage the Czech Republic's standing with its foreign neighbours?

"I think that one of the potential conflicts we have is internal conflict because there is little unity on the Czech political scene as far as a number of these issues are concerned. Before EU accession, it was much more simple, because our aims were clear-cut and there were no alternatives. Now we see much more hard work has to be done. [This involves] intellectual work and of course public discourse has to be developed in order to define the priorities that Czech [foreign] policy could pursue and try to achieve."

04-02-2005