AMO report highlights need for ‘coherence’ in Czech diplomacy, greater EU autonomy in age of Covid-19

The Association for International Affairs (AMO) has just published its annual “Agenda for Czech Foreign Policy” report. As always, the Prague-based think tank has not only analysed global developments and the role of Czech diplomacy in them, but also laid out recommendations for the direction it should take, given new challenges.

AMO released its latest “Agenda” report on Wednesday ahead of a discussion – socially distanced, with everyone wearing facemasks – on its findings and policy prescriptions with Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček.

Topping the agenda was how the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the need to intensify and better coordinate action among European Union member states, says AMO research fellow and report co-author Pavel Havlíček.

“The main conclusions of the report, obviously, have a lot to do with the Covid-19 pandemic and how this is transforming the international world order and poses a challenge to Czech foreign policy, what we should do vis-à-vis the current crisis.

“While the world order has not changed completely, Covid-19 has exposed existing trends and tendencies present for quite some time. This includes a highly problematic trans-Atlantic bond between the EU and the United States, but also a rivalry between the US and China. It has also exposed the EU’s dependency on trade chains, again going back to China.

Pavel Havlíček, photo: Archive of Pavel Havlíček

“So, basically, it has brought to the forefront the need for more strategic EU autonomy and at the same time, from the Czech foreign perspective and also in terms of the country’s ‘survival mode’, we have called on Czechia to be much more creative, much more coherent, and much more constructive with EU institutions and member states.”

Apart from such issues related directly and indirectly to Covid-19, AMO’s Agenda for Czech Foreign Policy report includes new thematic chapters on EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, specifically on Czech efforts to promote liberal democracies; the EU’s Green Agenda; and the Czech Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2022. Newly, it also goes deeper into Czech initiatives in Africa.

“We have also highlighted some of the inconsistencies between the key decision-makers and highest Constitutional players in the realm of Czech foreign policy – so, the government, including both the prime minister and foreign affairs minister but also the Prague Castle, the Office of the Czech President.

“We expose and analyse missing leadership and missing coordination among the three pillars of Czech foreign policy and not that this void or vacancy has been filled in by new players – and we have seen that very clearly, for example when Senate chairman Miloš Vystrčil travelled to Taiwan recently.”

AMO research fellow Pavel Havlíček said that during Wednesday’s discussion, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček also stressed that the promotion of human rights in places such as Russia and especially in recent weeks Belarus remains a pillar of Czech diplomacy – increasingly in very close cooperation with civil society actors.

Meanwhile, Africa has been a growing priority, as evidenced by the rising number of Czech diplomats and trade representatives posted to the region. But the often turbulent region of Latin America, with the exception of Cuba, has “been somehow off the agenda”, as Havlíček put it.