Czech Ambassadors meet in Prague for annual consultations

Czech Foreign Ministry

Throughout the course of this week Czech ambassadors posted all over the world are meeting in Prague for their annual session at the Czech Foreign Ministry. The week of meetings comes directly on the heels of the appointment of a new Civic Democratic minority government, which faces an uncertain future. During a break between sessions at Cernin Palace - home to the Czech Foreign Ministry - Martin Palous, the new Czech Ambassador to the United Nations, reflected on how useful the conference of ambassadors is at this stage in the new government's mandate:

Martin Palous
"Obviously such a meeting is very useful because the communication with both the Minister and colleagues is very important. One of the basic elements of foreign politics is continuity. The foreign political goals, I think, remain the same regardless of who is in the government. This was actually what Minister Alexandr Vondra stressed as his first point: continuity, no radical changes, no revolutions. So in spite of the fact that this government's future is uncertain, as you have said, I think that the process that we are part of continues."

Something that Minister Vondra said yesterday morning caught my attention: he said that diplomats love stability and certainty. How would you describe your own career as a diplomat? Are you a so-called career diplomat or a political diplomat?

"I will tell you my story. Before 1989 I was a dissident, so I was not preparing myself for anything like an official career, and diplomats work for the state. After 1989—or in early 1990—we were sort of catapulted into a public space and because I had been involved in foreign political relations and communications previously, I found here a natural space for my activities in a new regime. So I started to work first in the foreign relations committee in the Czech parliament, then I was asked by my friend and colleague, Jiri Dienstbier, to come here [to the Foreign Ministry] and I was his advisor for a couple of months, and then the deputy foreign minister. Then I returned back to academia for many years, and I was the President of the Czech Helsinki Committee, and in 1998 I returned to the Foreign Ministry. So I would say that I am a semi-professional. I do foreign relations, or foreign politics, seriously and I think I know a lot about it so in that respect I'm professional, but at the same time I'm not a career diplomat. Let's put it that way."

One of the hallmarks of your career as a diplomat—and your career also as a human rights activist—has been paying great attention to the development of democracy in Cuba. How can you, as the Czech Republic's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, continue in that work, and are you able to do it visibly? Is it something that your mandate allows?

Czech Foreign Ministry
"Sure. Human rights is an important theme in the context of the United Nations system so I will certainly be doing that. I've been in New York for just a couple of weeks only, and I would be hesitant to give you a very specific answer about what, concretely, I am going to do—let's say in the context of the upcoming session of the General Assembly. But certainly there will be many opportunities to articulate our position that has been affirmed here by the Foreign Minister, and by the Prime Minister today. Obviously there is one question. The United Nations system also works as a forum of many countries and you need to get supporters and votes for your candidatures and Cuba can been seen as a very powerful and tricky opponent in these matters. Certainly we would like to use all instruments to achieve our goals and to let's say, win in the election campaigns, so to say. But I don't think that our foreign policy is going to be less principled because of that. I think that we will be speaking very clearly on behalf of dissidents, human rights fighters, people in prison, and we will be supporting the process of democratization in countries like Cuba."