Ambassador for a Day - Czech young people in the EU

Linda Duffield, Cyril Svoboda and the winners of the competition, photo:

On Monday, both Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Havel received visitors from the British Embassy, but on this occasion their guests were somewhat younger than you might perhaps expect from ambassadorial visitors. They were in fact the two 18 year old winners of the "Ambassador for a Day" essay writing competition, which was organised by the British Embassy in Prague to encourage young people in the Czech Republic to take an interest in European diplomacy. Yet despite their youth, the two winners had no less of a passion for politics.

Since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, issues of European integration have become much more prominent in the Czech political sphere, and discussion is likely to continue for years to come. With today's young people, as the next diplomats and politicians, very much the future of international relations within the European Union, the British Embassy in Prague recently played its part in encouraging Czech students to voice their opinions on the subject. Pupils from secondary schools all over Prague were asked to write an essay, in English, on the topic of "My Vision of the European Union", as part of the "Ambassador for a Day" competition, organised by the British Embassy. Having been run once before by the British Embassy in Helsinki, it offers students a chance to experience just what an ambassadorial position entails. The British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Linda Duffield, explains the purpose of the recent contest:

"We organised the competition during the UK presidency of the EU, because we wanted to listen to what the views of young Czech people were on the EU. That was the purpose of the competition. We weren't looking for views that necessarily coincided with the British governments views, we were looking for well argued essays and the two winners we selected from this competition really had some original ideas to put forwards, one on the security challenges facing the EU and other on the balance between political integration and economic integration within the EU. And we invited the two prize winners to come and spend a day in the British Embassy so that they could find out what an embassy does, about the range of activities that were involved in and what its like to be in an embassy in a European capital such as Prague."

Indeed the two winners, Lucie Dufkova and Jan Kuzvart, both 18 years of age, had something of a packed day ahead of them when they were picked up from their respective schools in Embassy Jaguars on Monday morning. They told me of their experiences during their day at the Embassy:

Lucie Dufkova: "We met with the minister of foreign affairs we met the british chamber of trade we have seen how the embassy works inside wo we went to the visa office and seen how visas are issued so the basic idea was to get the impression how an embassy works."

Jan Kuzvart: "I was very impressed by the reaction of staff at this embassy because they were very kind and I'm also pleased that we were given the opportunity to visit places where we can go as citizens for example Prague Castle or the British Embassy or the office of our government so it was very valuable."

At the end of the young ambassadors' hectic day finally came some respite, as classmates and teachers came to greet them at an evening reception at the British Embassy. Yet even this doesn't stray far from the day-to-day proceedings of the Ambassador, as Peter Wickenden of the Press and Politics section of the Embassy, and one of the chief organisers of the event, explains:

"This is very much a typical end of the Ambassador's day where she is to be found holding receptions which she does probably twice a week, so I hope they've got a slice of life as an ambassador and that it wasn't too artificial which I don't think it was. And who knows, it'll have either encouraged them to consider a career as a diplomat or put them off for life!"