Czechs promote Balkan integration into western political and defence structures, seek business ties

Prime Ministers Adrian Nastase and Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTK

On the eve of its accession to the EU, the Czech Republic said it supported further expansion of the Union to the southeast to include more Balkan countries. At the same time, the Czechs seek to boost business ties with the region. Vladimir Tax reports.

Prime Ministers Adrian Nastase and Vladimir Spidla,  photo: CTK
This week, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla visited Romania and Macedonia, offering to share his experience with joining the EU and NATO. Mr. Spidla said promoting stability and prosperity of the Balkan region was in the interests of the Czech Republic.

Increasing trade with the Balkan countries was one of the priorities of the visit. The Czech Prime Minister said the volume of trade was lagging behind the possibilities of the national economies, and talks focused on ways of removing any obstacles to the free exchange of goods and services.

Prime Minister Spidla was accompanied by a large suite of government officials and entrepreneurs. One of them was the general director of the Czech trade promotion agency CzechTrade, Martin Tlapa. He told Radio Prague that whereas cars and construction account for the biggest part of Czech exports to Romania, there were opportunities in other areas that Czech companies should not miss:

"This is one of quite important markets in the Balkans which is relatively stable, with a high [economic] potential and high political stability. For the future, it is extremely important for Czech companies to focus on the energy sector and the construction of railways, as well as projects in upgrading the heating and electricity systems in Romania."

There are traditional ties between the Czech Republic and Romania - a Czech minority lives in the Banat region. Ten years ago, they amounted to about 10 000 people but the number has been decreasing rapidly as people have left in search of a higher standard of living. Young people in particular seek a better life either in other parts of Romania or have left for the Czech Republic - the land of their forefathers. About five years ago, the Czech government started supporting the expatriates by sending Czech teachers to Banat, with the aim of re-igniting the cultural and social life of the communities.