Press conference: How has the Czech foreign policy changed over the 25 years since Vaclav Havel’s address to the US Congress?

Date of event: 22.1. 2015

The event took place on 22nd January 2015. The press conference was highly attended by both public and the press.

The director of the PTCR, Dr Alexandr Vondra opened the event. A new policy paper issued by PCTR and Center and European Policy Analysis (CEPA) with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic was the main topic of the conference.

Dr Vondra reminded the audience of the 25th anniversary of President Václav Havel’s speech at the US Congress, but also of the events of the year 2014. He elaborated on the subject of the transformation of the Czech-US relations, remembered significant personalities who had passed away last year and spoke about the circumstances that preceded the writing of the policy paper. The authors of the text are Czech and foreign personalities with personal connections to our homeland with a wide range of opinions. Dr Vondra also mentioned the economic aspects of CS-US relations.

Regarding that, Dr Vondra reminded the audience of the findings based on the research about transatlantic relations. He stressed out that although there were some rather sceptical opinions among 1000 respondents, the general public is in favour of strong ties between the Czech Republic and the USA.

Alexandr Vondra pointed out that the atmosphere in the society had changed since Havel’s memorable speech, that the idealism is much weaker now and therefore the idealists might not be excited about the conclusions of the presented PP. He listed eight points, which should help to ensure that the Czech Republic is not perceived as a secondary partner and ally (eg. Czech-Polish relations, energy security, very little involvement of the Czech Republic in the EU or missed opportunity regarding closure of the RFE/RSE). Participants of the conference were also promised publication of the new text that is based on the conclusions that of the PP.

Some of the Czech authors of the PP were present at the conference (Jiří Schneider, Tomas Pojar). Jiří Schneider mentioned that the period of romanticism and great personalities was over. According to him, the relationship between the Czech Republic and the USA is very asymmetric and if we want to get attention, we have to something extreme, either good or bad.

Last but not least, Mr Tomáš Pojar spoke about the need to focus to maintain long-term policies. Each government should do its best to follow the steps of the previous one, not to go in its own direction.

In the end, Dr Vondra repeated some of the key ideas of the policy paper and opened the floor for questions. Our thanks go to the Civic Institute and IC NATO for media cooperation.