Social Democrat leader defends cabinet minister

The Social Democratic party leadership has come out in defence of Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček whose performance in office was severely criticized by President Miloš Zeman this week.

Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said on Friday that under Petříček's leadership the foreign ministry fulfils the government’s foreign policy priorities, defends the interests of the Czech Republic and maintains the set foreign policy line.

The president earlier accused Mr. Petříček of incompetence, saying the ministry’s decision to take away “top priority status” from the Czech Embassy in Hungary and that in Italy was a serious mistake. He apologized in person to the visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday, saying he would push to get the decision reversed.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said in its defence that the status of Czech embassies did not reflect the importance ascribed to bilateral relations with a given state and downgrading the status of the said ministries had been prompted by financial considerations.