Draft foreign policy puts accent on human rights

Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: CTK

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs is preparing a new long-term foreign policy that would put an accent on human rights. Unlike an earlier draft, the new version builds on the legacy of Václav Havel and his championing of human rights, as well as mentioning the Prague Spring and Charter 77. The document has now been sent to the coalition partners and opposition parties for discussion.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: CTK
The first draft of the new long-term foreign policy plan, which leaked to the media in December, drew a lot of criticism for shifting away from a previous accent on human rights, especially in its policy towards China and its focus on closer economic cooperation with the country.

Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, the minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, said that the Czech Republic had no intention of lessening its stress on human rights:

“We are definitely not weakening this significant pillar of the Czech foreign policy, we only understand it in a broader sense. Along with the accent on political rights, we are also adding the right to environment and social rights, because we take the view that in different countries it is necessary to accentuate different type of rights. So it is necessary to search for different strategies according to the environment, continent or culture. But that definitely doesn’t mean that we should abandon our position or even keep quiet just because someone says so.”

The draft document adds Israel to the list of the Czech Republic’s strategic partners and names the US as “the main guarantor of Euro-Atlantic security”.

Photo: archive of Russian Embassy in Edinburgh,  CC BY-SA 2.0
It also touches on the Czech Republic’s relationship to Russia. While it says that Russia is significantly destabilizing European safety, it adds that it is potentially an important economic and political partner both for the Czech Republic and the EU.

Foreign Minister Zaorálek says it is important to see the two states’ relationship in the long-term perspective:

“This policy plan is being drafted now, but it should still be valid after five years. We cannot say now what exactly will happen or where Russia will stand in five years’ time. So I don’t want to presume automatically that Russia will be the same as it is right now. Within two years it might be a business partner that will respect international laws.”

The new policy programme has not been officially presented yet, because the ministry is still waiting for input from the coalition partners, external advisors and opposition parties.

According to Jakub Janda of the think tank European Values, it is unlikely to raise many controversies. At the same time, he points out that there is no guarantee that all Czech politicians will follow official policy:

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
“The text itself is supposed to, let’s say, draw a clear line that the creators of the Czech foreign policy should follow. That’s why the Office of the Czech President has been asked for their input as well. But honestly, if you have a look at what the Czech president is doing, he is not following any rules or procedures he previously said he would stick to. So I am afraid no document can stop the president from shifting the Czech Republic towards I would say ‘Eastern mind-set’, something he is definitely doing.”