Maintaining Georgia’s territorial integrity and helping the reconstruction of the country following the recent armed conflict with Russia: those are priorities outlined on Wednesday by the Czech government ahead of next week’s EU summit.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, photo: CTK
The Czech government has come out on the side of Georgia from the start – condemning Russia’s use of force earlier this month and denouncing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to recognise the rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Next Monday, EU leaders, including Czech representatives, will meet at a special summit in Brussels to hammer out a united stance, which Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek expects will be critical of Russia.
“Countries in the EU are fairly united over the fact that Russia should be criticised; but are not of one mind over just how sharp and broad the criticism should be.”
Václav Klaus, Mirek Topolánek, Alexandr Vondra and Karel Schwarzenberg, photo: CTK
Other topics the Czech Republic would like to focus on include not only humanitarian aid for Georgia but also long-term reconstruction plans to help the whole of the country including the breakaway regions. The Czech government, for example, plans to earmark 150 million crowns (around 9 million US dollars) for that purpose over the next three years. At the summit, it hopes to negotiate a donors’ conference which the Czech Foreign Ministry has offered to host in Prague. But the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg made clear Wednesday that all depended on how discussions at the European level will go, determining which steps the country will be able to take.
The Czech prime minister, for one, has made clear he strongly supports the deployment of a monitoring mission to the country, in which the Czech Republic would like to take part.
Although the government delegation will be going to Brussels with a strong mandate not all are fully in support of its position. The opposition Social Democrats, for example, have criticised the government for being “too unilateral” on the issue. That same charge has also been levelled at the Czech president but for the opposite reasons: since the start of the conflict he has laid the brunt of the responsibility not at Russia’s door, but Georgia’s. After failing to find common ground in a meeting on Tuesday Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and other government ministers hoped to meet once more with Mr Klaus to hammer out a common position, but to no avail. Mr Klaus declined an invitation to the office of the government to further discuss the issue, saying that his mind was made up and he did not think he stood any chance of bringing the government around to his way of thinking.