Czech government hesitates to recognize Kosovo

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic remains reserved towards recognizing Kosovo as an independent country. After the former Serbian province proclaimed independence on Sunday, Czech diplomats said they would wait for a common EU strategy on the issue. But a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday failed to reach any joint policy towards Kosovo, and the Czech Foreign Ministry has set down its own conditions for the recognition of Kosovo.

Photo: CTK
After the former Serbian province of Kosovo proclaimed independence on Sunday, the first reactions by Czech foreign policy makers were reserved. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zuzana Opletalová said on Sunday that the Czech Republic would not act independently towards Kosovo.

“We are convinced that the European Union has to come up with a common stance towards the declaration of independence of Kosovo; this should be agreed on the General Affairs and External Relations Commission on Monday. The Czech Republic is ready to proceed in coordination with other member states of the European Union.”

Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: CTK
However, Monday’s meeting produced no results and no common strategy for EU countries was adopted in Brussels. Meanwhile, several European countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, have recognized an independent Kosovo; others, most notably Spain, Romania, Greece and Slovakia have rejected it for fear that it might add fuel to similar separatist movements in their own countries. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg therefore lay down his own terms for recognizing independent Kosovo.

“I have said on several occasions that no dates are binding for us; we have to see how many European countries recognize Kosovo, and the way the Kosovo government behaves. We will base our decision on these factors rather than on a date in the calendar. That’s why I am not going to mention any specific date – we will work with facts, not with dates.”

Alexandr Vondra,  photo: CTK
Here in the Czech Republic, the opposition Social Democrats and Communists reject Kosovo’s declaration of independence, pointing out that the same happened to Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War. In September 1938, the German speaking areas of Czechoslovakia, known as Sudetenland, were ceded to Nazi Germany by the Munich Agreement, signed – besides Hitler and Mussolini – by the English and French Prime Ministers. Also the Czech President Václav Klaus has warned of ‘unprecedented consequences’ of the move. Czech European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra is aware of the extreme sensitivity of the matter as well but he believes the Czech Republic will recognize independent Kosovo in the end.

“It is sort of like dancing on eggshells, it is like handling a powder keg. In situations like this, I think it is better to be really careful. We will wait, we will evaluate the situation; there is no hurry. It will certainly not happen this week but let’s be realists – we certainly won’t wait for six months.”