Thursday, 24 October 2019

LN: Czech-U.S. bilateral agenda meagre in past two decades

ČTK |
20 July 2016

Prague, July 19 (CTK) - Czech politicians have often attended U.N. events in the USA in the past two decades but there has been no bilateral agenda debated by Czech and U.S. leaders, except for Vaclav Havel, a military radar and the Temelin nuclear power plant, Blahoslav Hruska writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) yesterday.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek is staying in the USA this week. He will attend a meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Council, a donors' conference in support of Iraq and a meeting of the anti-IS global coalition. At the close of his visit, he will give a speech in the German Marshall Fund institution, Hruska writes.
All the above institutions are unknown to common people. This fact does not depreciate Zaoralek's efforts, since his U.S. trip is a working visit within the fight of terrorism, Hruska writes.
Nevertheless, his trip is a good opportunity to realise that Czech politicians would hardly find any reason for visiting the USA if it were not for various U.N. activities, Hruska says.
For the time being, only three genuine bilateral topics have appeared within the contemporary Czech-U.S. relations: former Czech dissident and post-communist president Vaclav Havel and his legacy, a missile defence radar the USA planned to build southwest of Prague and the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant in whose extension the U.S Westinghouse company wants to take part, Hruska writes.
However, it is impossible to base the bilateral agenda on Havel's political and moral legacy forever, he continues.
"The adventure" with the U.S. radar near Prague was terminated by a legendary telephone call from the White House in 2009, which former Czech prime minister Jan Fischer received in pyjamas at night, he writes, referring to President Barack Obama's announcement that the USA was withdrawing the plan.
As far as Temelin is concerned, the tender for its extension was scrapped by its Czech operator, the CEZ energy utility, in April 2014, Hruska writes.
Regarding the above developments, the review of top-level meetings of Czech and U.S. politicians looks accordingly. The last Czech prime minister to meet a U.S. president was Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS). He was received by Obama in 2011 when the lobbying for the Temelin project was starting and Westinghouse needed top-level political support, Hruska writes.
In November 2014, the incumbent Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) met Vice-President Joe Biden in the White House at least, making use of the then "pro-Havel wave." In the wake of their meeting, Sobotka and Biden together unveiled Havel's bust in Washington's Capitol.
Since then, the Czech official who has got the closest to the White House has been President Milos Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek, who took a selfie photo in front of the fence surrounding the building. Zeman has never been to the White House in his capacity as president so far, Hruska writes.
Zeman went to the USA in the autumn 2015 last time. However, instead of promoting Czech-U.S. relations, he then focused on befriending a different nation by having a birthday party in a Russian restaurant in Manhattan, New York, Hruska writes.
It may seem that Czech politicians are either boring (Sobotka) or on the contrary too excentric (Zeman) to be granted a top-level reception overseas. However, the effect of their personalities plays a nil role in this respect, Hruska continues.
Which Czech leader has been received in the USA on the highest level of all? It was not Havel but Vladimir Spidla (CSSD), Czech prime minister in 2002-2004. Thirteen years ago, he was met by the U.S. president, vice-president and two ministers in a single week. His magic formula sounded "Havel, Iraq and the EU extension," Hruska writes.
The missile defence radar in Bohemia and the extension of Temelin have faded away as topics for the Czech-U.S. discussion. The only surviving topic, Havel, has been ridiculed by many at home but it remains an attractive Czech brand overseas, Hruska writes.
Until Czech diplomacy finds another attractive topic for a bilateral debate, in addition to Havel's legacy, Czech politicians will continue visiting the USA mainly for U.N. purposes, Hruska concludes.

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