Czech-German relations expected to thrive after Merkel takes office

Angela Merkel, photo: CTK

On Tuesday, Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats, was sworn in as Germany's first ever woman chancellor at a ceremony in the Bundestag. On Wednesday, Mrs Merkel made her first official visit to Brussels and Paris, followed by a trip to London on Thursday, confirming the priorities of her government's foreign policy. But what developments can be expected in Germany's relations with its eastern neighbour the Czech Republic?

Angela Merkel, photo: CTK
After a troubled common past, the Czech Republic and Germany are currently enjoying good neighbourly relations, with Germany being the Czech Republic's biggest trading partner. The foundations of the modern-day Czech-German relations were laid in the Czech-German Declaration signed in 1997. One of its concrete results is the Czech-German Fund for the Future which runs projects to help ordinary Czechs and Germans understand each other. I spoke to director Herbert Werner (once an MP for Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats) and asked him whether we can expect any new development in Czech-German relations.

"Well, I believe that Mrs Merkel will try to intensify the overall relations between our two countries. She will not only try to intensify the cooperation on party level but to bring about a close cooperation of our two societies. As you know she had studied for some months in Prague when she was at university, so she knows the situation in this country very well and she regards good relations to all neighbours of Germany as very important."

Angela Merkel is also the first German chancellor to have grown up in East Germany, the former communist part of the country. Will that have an influence on her understanding of the issues faced by the former communist countries in Europe?

"She had undergone the process of transformation in the eastern part of today's Germany, so she knows the problems of transformation in the other countries as well. I think she has the right and true feeling and the true empathy which is necessary for a true judgment of the situation in our neighbouring states. I'm quite sure that the policy of Germany towards the neighbouring countries in Central Europe will be intensified."

Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly supported the idea of a centre against expulsion which would pay tribute to Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries after the Second World War, a project regarded as highly controversial by Poland and the Czech Republic. Herbert Werner from the Czech-German Future Fund again.

"I think that Mrs Merkel as well will try to open a new discussion about that centre against deportations and expulsions but I am convinced that she will open the situation for all the aspects and implication which have been brought into the discussion by our neighbouring states, the Czech Republic, Poland and so on. So that the discussion will not concentrate only on a German point of view."