Czech PM tells President Trump he wants to “make the Czech Republic great again“

Melanie Trump, Donald Trump, Andrej Babiš, Monika Babišová, photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his wife Monika were received in the White House on Thursday by President Donald Trump and the US First Lady. Mr. Babiš later described the meeting as "friendly and constructive".

Melanie Trump,  Donald Trump,  Andrej Babiš,  Monika Babišová,  photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš
It was the first visit to the White House by a Czech head of government in eight years and Andrej Babiš, whom Forbes magazine earlier dubbed the “Czech Trump” had a long list of issues in his briefcase. However before getting down to the nitty gritty, the two leaders posed for the media and exchanged compliments, with the Czech prime minister stressing the things that bound the two countries from 1918 to the present day.

“Our countries have been allies since the US helped to establish the First Republic (Czechoslovakia) 100 years ago. We are allies in NATO, we are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the country’s entry to NATO this year; our soldiers are fighting alongside US soldiers against international terrorists. Our business relations are growing, our investors are investing in the US and have already created thousands of jobs.”

The Czech prime minister, who said earlier that he considered it very important to establish a good rapport with Donald Trump, made a point of highlighting how much the two had in common.

“Mr. President, I watched your 2019 State of the Union Address, and I perfectly understand your plan: how to make America great again. I have a similar plan - to make the Czech Republic great again.”

President Trump responded in kind, with high praise for the Czech Republic.

“The Czech Republic is doing very, very well economically and in all other respects; a very safe country, strong military, strong people. We have a very good relationship with the Czech Republic, doing a lot of trade and just about everything you can imagine.”

The niceties over, the two leaders got down to business, first in one-on-one talks and later in a broader set up that included Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and President Trump’s security adviser John Bolton. The two sides discussed migration, cyber-security, the situation in Syria, bilateral cooperation in defence, nuclear energy and the trade war threatening to break out between the EU and the US.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš
The Czech prime minister later said he appealed to Donald Trump not to introduce tariffs on European goods, while the US president retorted that negotiations with the EU were “difficult”.

The talks reportedly also touched on Donald Trump’s plan for vast amounts of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be sold to the European Union –plans which the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, once it is in operation, would undermine. Asked by President Trump what would happen if Russia cut off gas supplies, Mr. Babiš reportedly said “It depends on who needs who more. If gas deliveries were cut, Russia might even go bankrupt.”

On a lighter note, the Czech prime minister extended an invitation for President Trump and the First Lady to visit the Czech Republic and also invited Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who has Czech roots, to attend a business forum in Prague.

A lot of speculation revolved around the gift that the Czech prime minister brought his US host. It is reported to have been a hand-made pistol with the year of Donald Trump’s birth engraved on it. Not everyone in the Czech Republic approved of the choice. Commentator Tomáš Klvaňa wrote in the daily Hospodarské noviny that given the shootings in the US and the debate surrounding guns, some other present would have been more suitable.