Saturday, 18 November 2017

Zeman: Chinese invest CZK 50 billion in Czech Republic

ČTK |
21 October 2016

Prague, Oct 20 (CTK) - The Chinese investments in the Czech Republic reached 50 billion crowns, Czech President Milos Zeman has said in an interview with Prima TV.

Zeman rejected the view of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) that Czech firms are moving away from China.

The debate about Czech-Chinese relations and the economic relations between the two countries has opened in connection with the visit of the Dalai Lama who was participating in the Forum 2000 conference in Prague earlier this week.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry warned Czech ambassadors that Czech officials should avoid meeting the Dalai Lama, but some politicians, including ministers, met him anyway. China had warned that this might worsen the developing relations.

Zeman, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) and the heads of the two houses of parliament then issued a statement that the Czech Republic fully respects the territorial integrity of China and that the meetings with the Dalai Lama are not a sign of any change to the official policy.

The Czech right-wing opposition, university rectors and nongovernment organisations said the statement is a gesture of servility.

Backing Culture Minister Pavel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) who met the Dalai Lama, Babis said the economic relations with China do not seem very good to him. Babis said some Czech firms that launched cooperation with Chinese companies during President Xi Jinping's visit to Prague in March already regret the step they took.

Babis said the situation where the Czech Republic imports ten times more than it exports prevails. He said the Chinese neither built factories nor employed people nor opened their markets to the Czechs.

Zeman said Babis was not informed well.

He said Czech investors are not moving away from China. On the contrary, a surprisingly high number of them wants to cooperate with Chinese companies.

Zeman said the Chinese CEFC group took over the Czech manufacturing company Zdas and the Chinese want to enter the Aircraft Industries, a Czech aircraft producer.

In March, the Presidential Office said the contracts signed between Czech and Chinese firms would reach 95 billion crowns this year and nearly 300 billion crowns by 2020. The Czech firms that joined the cooperation were Skoda Auto, CEZ and the J&T Group, among others.

Zeman said the statement by the four supreme constitutional officials was necessary.

"Otherwise, an impression might be created that the stance of Minister Herman is the stance of the whole government," Zeman said. One gesture could have destroyed a lot of work, he added.

China labels the Dalai Lama, 80, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a separatist, saying he was fighting for Tibet's independence, which he denies. Beijing, which considers Tibet an inseparable part of Chinese territory, has long criticised meetings of statesmen with the Dalai Lama.

"The Chinese have an absolute right to threaten with sanctions if they considers a step hostile to their country," Zeman said.

Before a European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday, PM Sobotka said it was the Presidential Office that decided to release the statement.

He said it seems good to him that the statement was released.

Sobotka said the statement does not include anything new and that it presents the same opinions as the previous Czech governments have held. "Perhaps the previous governments did it behind the back of the citizens," he said.

Sobotka dismissed the speculation that he met the Chinese ambassador to Prague before the statement was issued.

The Czech Foreign Ministry told Aktualne.cz news server that Chinese diplomacy on Tuesday called on Czech politicians not to meet the Dalai Lama and emphasised that the issue of territorial integrity is very sensitive for China.

Representatives of 15 Czech NGOs, including People in Need, the Association for International Affairs, Amnesty International Forum 2000 and CEVRO, said the statement on China was servile and would discredit the Czech foreign policy in the eyes of the public both at home and abroad rather than improve its image.

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