Czech Deputy Foreign Minister say his country has "no preference" in upcoming US presidential election

Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Petr Kolar, photo: CTK

Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Petr Kolar addressed a group of American students in Prague on Thursday on the issue of the European Union's relationship with the United States and on the Czech Republic's dealings with both entities. One of the topics that provoked much discussion was the so-called rift between some countries in the EU and the United States, particularly in relation to the US-led military action in Iraq.

Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Petr Kolar,  photo: CTK
So does Mr Kolar think this is a major problem for the EU's future relations with the United States?

"I wouldn't like to exaggerate it. There were some misunderstandings and misinterpretations of some tasks and steps implemented by our partners in the United States and also here in Europe. Different comments were made. Some of these comments were perhaps more arrogant than they should have been between friends. But I don't think this gap is such a huge gap, which could lead to some sort of 'divorce' between the European Union and the United States. I know that here in the Czech Republic as well as in other EU countries there is a very strong will to not only keep and hold but to even strengthen cooperation between the United States and the European Union. We need it. This is in our basic interests."

Given the problems that some European politicians have had with the Bush administration, there are some who feel that EU-US relations would improve if John Kerry were to be elected as president. So would the Czech government like to see a particular candidate triumph in the November poll?

"No [we have] no preference. It is in the hands of the American people. Whatever party wins in the United States, the Czech Republic will hopefully be a reliable partner for either administration. What is relevant is the commitment of politicians on both sides. To cooperate and not surprise each other, and such a strong relationship that we can rely on each other as allies."

One thing that the recent war in Iraq showed was that there are big differences in the foreign policies of states within the EU, with many new accession countries being broadly supportive of the US-led military action while older members such as France and Germany were fiercely opposed to it. In view of these divisions, is the notion of a common European-Union foreign policy following the adoption of the so-called EU constitution just a pipe dream or is it actually a real possibility?

"It is a real possibility, but it doesn't exist yet. There is a strong will in many EU countries to create and build it. We now even have a new European draft constitutional treaty, which is going to be signed in October in Rome. Then there will be referenda in various EU countries including the Czech Republic. So we shall see if it's going to be ratified. But I believe we could have a Common Foreign and Security Policy with clearly defined levels of what a European Union level of decision-making is, and what should stay in the hands of the national states. I very much believe in national states as the basic building blocks of the European Union."