Czech-German business cooperation, European issues and the possible impacts
of the trade war between the US and China topped the agenda of President
Zeman’s talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.
The German president said that as neighbours and EU members the Czech Republic and Germany were closer than ever and had a joint responsibility in helping to overcome the drawn-out European crisis and preventing another division of Europe into East and West.
During talks with Angela Merkel President Zeman praised Czech-German business ties, but criticized US protectionist measures, saying a trade war would benefit no one and could spark a new global crisis. He was also critical of the sanctions against Iran, saying Czech firms were interested in doing business with the country.
President Zeman said the talks with German officials had been friendly and constructive and migration issues had only been discussed marginally.
Observers noted that for the first time Czech-German top-level talks dealt exclusively with present-day issues and did not dwell on the past.
The Czech Foreign Ministry is hosting an international symposium on Czech
foreign policy titled “Rethinking the Future.“
The event is co-organized by the Prague-based Institute of International Relations, the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and the embassies of the United States and Australia.
In an opening address to the assembly, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček stressed the significance of EU and NATO membership for the Czech Republic.
He said politicians must work to overcome their differences on divisive issues such as migration and relations with Russia and that Czech foreign policy must build on values such as support for human rights in countries where they are brutally suppressed.
Petříček also stressed the importance of developing transatlantic cooperation, saying the United States had always been Europe’s key partner in times when the continent faced serious challenges.
The Social Democrats, the junior party in the ruling coalition, have moved to resolve a months-long dispute with President Zeman over who should hold the foreign ministry portfolio. Party leader Jan Hamáček on Tuesday revealed the name of the party’s new nominee for the post – the present deputy foreign minister, Tomáš Petříček.
The Social Democrats are to nominate Tomáš Petříček for the post of
foreign minister, Czech Television reported. The junior party in the
coalition government had previously put forward Miroslav Poche for the
position but President Miloš Zeman refused to appoint him.
The head of the Social Democrats, Minister of the Interior Jan Hamáček, is currently serving as the country’s diplomatic chief in a caretaker capacity. Mr. Petříček is at present deputy minister of foreign affairs.
Czech President Milos Zeman is to pay an official three-day visit to
Germany next week. Mr. Zeman will arrive in Berlin on Wednesday afternoon
but his talks with the country’s leaders are scheduled for Friday.
He will be received with military honours by his German counterpart President Frank Walter Steinmeier on Friday morning and then meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday afternoon. The talks are expected to focus on a wide range of issues including bilateral cooperation, EU reform, the migrant crisis or relations with Russia.
The president will also meet with representatives of German companies doing business in the Czech Republic.
Indian President, Ram Nath Kovind, is meeting with both the Czech President and Prime Minister this Thursday. Representatives of over 50 Indian enterprises are arriving alongside Kovind to take part in a specially organised forum with their Czech counterparts, focused on deepening trade and business ties. Collaboration in research and development is also to be discussed.
The distribution of refugees remains to be the only problematic issue in
the otherwise excellent Czech-German relations, German chancellor Angela
Merkel said on Wednesday after meeting with Czech Prime Minister Andrej
Babiš in Berlin. Several dozen people gathered outside the German
Chancellery in the German capital to protest against Mr. Babiš.
The ANO party leader, who arrived in Berlin for his first official visit of Germany, is also set scheduled to meet with Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble. Earlier on Wednesday, he held talks with representatives of several local think tanks and laid a wreath at the Berlin Wall Memorial.
The Social Democrats’ nominee for foreign minister, Miroslav Poche, has
been a very negative force at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says Prime
Minister Andrej Babiš. Mr. Babiš said on a TV discussion show on Sunday
that Mr. Poche, who is currently a political secretary at the ministry,
would never head the government department.
President Miloš Zeman refused to appoint Mr. Poche and Social Democrats chairman, Minister of the Interior Jan Hamáček, is currently also serving as caretaker foreign minister. The party say they will return to the matter after Senate and municipal elections next month.
Mr. Poche described the prime minister’s words on Sunday as an attack. He said if Mr. Babiš was cooperating with the likes of Hungary’s Viktor Orban he would be hard pressed to find a similarly minded foreign minister within the Social Democrats.
The broad Social Democratic Party leadership is meeting to debate the
problem regarding the party’s unsuccessful nominee for foreign minister.
Party leaders have proposed shelving the issue until October 15th, ie.
until after the Senate and local elections.
Miroslav Poche, whom the party nominated for the post, was rejected both by President Miloš Zeman and later by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. President Zeman refused to appoint him to office and the post was temporarily filled by party leader Jan Hamáček, who is also serving as minister of the interior.
When the Czech Republic re-opened its embassy in Zambia last year after a twenty-five-year break, Radek Rubeš handed over his credentials to President Edgar Lungu and set about re-establishing the Czech presence in Lusaka. When I met with him in Prague this week, I asked about the possibilities opening up and how hard it is to build on the Czechoslovak trademark that still rings a bell in Zambia.