Andrej Babis


Babis, Zeman Meet Over Anti-Russian Sanctions

Andrej Babiš, Miloš Zeman

Prague, Sept 11 (CTK) – Czech top elected officials will discuss the anti-Russian sanctions, migration, relations with Israel and the danger of by trade wars, and also coordinate their foreign trips at their meeting on Wednesday, the Presidential Office foreign section head Rudolf Jindrak has told CTK.


At the close of the meeting, the participants will issue a joint statement, he said.


No representative of the Senate, the upper house of parliament, will be present at the meeting. Senate chairman Milan Stech has excused himself as he is paying a working visit to Paris. He entrusted his deputy Miluse Horska to attend the meeting on his behalf, but the Presidential Office rejected her participation today.


The Czech leading politicians’ meeting on foreign policy is taking place after an almost 18-month pause.


The goal of these meetings, convoked by President Milos Zeman, is that the country’s representatives coordinate their foreign political positions.


In the past, such meetings took place once in three months. The latest one, however, was held as long ago as April 2017.


Jindrak said the long pause was due to events such as the October 2017 general election and the January 2018 presidential elections. Afterwards, the state officials were unable to agree on the meeting’s date before the July summit of NATO.


Apart from Zeman, the Wednesday meeting at Prague Castle will be attended by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondracek (both ANO), Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD) and Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar (for ANO).


The meeting will mainly serve to coordinate politicians’ upcoming foreign trips and disucss foreign politicians’ visit to the Czech Republic.


The agenda will also include the anti-Russian sanctions and sanctions in general. The meeting is not expected to result in proposing Prague’s withdrawal from the anti-Russian sanctions, Jindrak said.


“The goal is to conduct a debate on the issue, on the effectiveness of sanction regimes, and on how sanction regimes have been automatically prolonged by the European Council meetings, and whether space exists there to discuss the effectiveness and impact of the sanction regimes,” Jindrak said.


Another issue on the agenda will be Prague’s relations with Israel, the country Zeman is scheduled to visit in late November.


In Jerusalem, he might open the Czech House as a joint seat of the CzechTrade and CzechTourism agencies.


Jindrak said Zeman also wants the debate to touch on the danger of trade and customs wars, which might negatively affect Czech economy. In the past, Zeman criticised U.S. President Donald Trump for threatening with trade wars.


The Wednesday meeting will also debate the results of the NATO summit in July, including the need to raise the country’s defence spending to 2 percent of GDP.


Next year’s 20th anniversary of Czech entry into NATO and ways to celebrate it will also be discussed.


Further issues on the agenda may be migration, the development of the Brexit negotiations and the Czech Republic’s presidency of the Council of the EU and of the Visegrad Four (V4) group, which also comprises Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.