Matt Atlas

Babis Pledges To Make The Czech Republic Great Again

Andrej Babiš

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis now have another thing in common: They both like the same campaign slogan.


Babis said Thursday at the White House that he similarly wants to “Make the Czech Republic great again.”


The two leaders already have much in common.


Babis, like Trump, is a wealthy businessman who rode into office on a nationalist-style campaign.


While Trump is dogged by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Babis is facing charges of misusing European Union subsidies for a farm he transferred to relatives, including his son.


Trump wants to strengthen the U.S. border with Mexico. Babis is a vocal opponent of accepting migrants and refugees in his country.


Trump and first lady Melania Trump greeted the prime minister of the central European country and his wife, Monika Babisova, outside the White House and they walked to the Oval Office.

“Czech Republic doing very, very well economically and in all other respects,” Trump said. “It’s always been a safe country. Strong military. Strong people. We have a very good relationship with the Czech Republic and the United States. We do a lot of trade.”


Babis said U.S.-Czech Republic business relations are growing.


“Our investors are investing in the U.S. and already created thousands of jobs,” Babis said. “Mr. President, I watched your 2019 State of the Union address and I perfectly understand you plan how to make America great again. I have a similar plan to make the Czech Republic great again.”


The two leaders also discussed cybersecurity. A Czech watchdog followed U.S. authorities in warning against use of hardware or software made by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE.


Huawei has become the target of U.S. security concerns because of its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

“Our countries will work to ensure secure and reliable telecommunications networks and supply chains to reduce the risk of malicious cyber activity,” the two leaders said in a joint statement issued after their meeting. “We resolve to deepen our cooperation. … to develop telecommunications security principles.”


On trade, Trump has raised the ire of many Europeans by imposing tariffs on aluminum and steel, while threatening to slap tariffs on imports of cars from the European Union. Before leaving for the United States, Babis told The Associated Press that he hoped the trade spat would not escalate and that talks would result in a solution that avoids a trade war.


In their statement, the two leaders also said they would work together to promote enhanced energy diversification in Europe and ensure security. “We will further investigate the potential benefits of regional energy infrastructure development in Central Europe,” they said.


Babis’ visit coincides with the 30th anniversary of the 1989 anti-communist “Velvet Revolution” and the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s membership in NATO, which began in 1999.


The Czech Republic is among the countries criticized by Trump for not meeting the NATO goal of committing 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense. Babis has promised to meet the target by 2024.