Czech PM Jiri Paroubek meets Tony Blair in Downing Street

Jiri Paroubek (links) und Tony Blair (Foto: CTK)

The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek embarked on a brief official visit to the United Kingdom on Monday. It was his first such trip since being named prime minister a month ago. Despite the formalities, he and Tony Blair had much more to discuss than just the weather. Their hour long talks covered such topical issues as the ratification of the European Constitution and the future of the political left in Europe. Martin Mikule spoke with Czech Radio's reporter in London, Milan Kocourek, who's been on top of the prime minister's trip.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and Tony Blair, photo: CTK
"Mr.Paroubek mentioned that they were discussing Iraq that the situation in Iraq is quite tense - people are dying in attacks by the insurgents. I asked him one question, whether he would be pressing on Tony Blair in any way for foreign troops to leave Iraq and he replied quite clearly that it is not his opinion that the Czech troops should leave Iraq by the end of this year."

The Czech Social Democrats have often looked up to the British Labour. I think they would like to learn from their success in the elections in the last decade. Do you think this has also been one of the goals of the Czech prime minister's visit to the United Kingdom?

"Yes. He emphasised that they are brotherly parties and that the Czech party has a lot to learn from Mr. Blair and it is quite natural that they are both Social Democratic parties. Mr. Paroubek was asked whether he had some points to learn from Labour from the point of view of his election victory. Mr. Paroubek said if there was a simple point where he could learn from Labour he would definitely take it but the situation is actually more complicated than that. But it was obvious from what he said and also when he was leaving the Downing Street that they were quite friendly with Tony Blair, they were talking directly - I haven't seen actually an interpreter - and they got on quite well. I am sure it was a successful visit from Mr. Paroubek's view, and also from Tony Blair's point of view."

Prime minister Jiri Paroubek in Downing Street, photo: CTK
Apart from meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair, are there any other important points on the agenda of Czech Prime Minister in the United Kingdom?

"Yes, he was actually also meeting the Czech compatriots at the Czech embassy in London. He was present when there were some commemorative medals on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Second World War given to the Czech ex-combatants, both pilots and soldiers. Then he went for dinner with Geoff Hoon - the leader of the House of Commons - which was at the Lancaster House in London. So his program was quite packed yesterday and I understood that he is returning to the Czech Republic today."