Expert: Hardest part of Ukraine crisis yet to come for Czech govt.

Alexander Schallenberg, Volodymyr Zelenskyj and Jan Lipavský

Wednesday marks exactly six months since Russia launched its war on Ukraine. Czechia has taken in more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other state and provided massive assistance to Kyiv. But how did the relatively new Czech government respond to the invasion in March? And with fuel prices rocketing, how is it handling public opinion now? I spoke to Pavel Havlíček of the Association of International Affairs in Prague.

Pavel Havlíček | Photo: Archive of Pavel Havlíček

“I think they responded relatively well, taking into consideration the turbulent takeover of the portfolio from Andrej Babiš and his government.

“But also taking into consideration the multiple levels of crisis they have been facing since the very beginning, including the energy crisis, the inflow of refugees, but also the social and economic impacts of the war on the society.

“So while there were definitely some hiccups on the way, I would generally say that they somehow managed, so far.

“But it is true that the most difficult part is yet to come with the heating season towards the end of year.”

Illustrative photo: Štěpánka Kadlečková,  Czech Radio

You mention hiccups. What would you consider to be the missteps, if there were missteps, made by the Czech government over Ukraine?

“I would say, especially when we look at the impact of the war on Czech society, definitely the social elements of policy-making, including basically covering the needs of the poorest and the most disadvantaged parts of society.

“They were not really taken into consideration at the beginning of the crisis.

“Now I think it’s much better reflected – also because of the pressure that is coming from the opposition.”

You mentioned the fuel crisis we’re all experiencing now. That’s impacting the lives of all Czechs, but especially the relatively badly off. How well is the government doing when it comes to selling its continued commitment to helping Ukraine to the Czech public?

Humanitarian aid to Ukraine | Photo: Martin Dorazín,  Czech Radio

“I think this is the one thing that is not completely missing but it really needs and deserves more attention.

“Because honestly, this is not about spring – this is a long one.

“And we need to make sure that the society is still behind the measures that are very well-crafted in supporting Ukraine, but at the same time are having an impact on the state of Czech society, including energy in first place.

“I think it’s really important now to make sure that especially those in need get compensation to get over the issues and manage through heating season in particular.

“So I think this is something that we are really seeing as one of the obstacles right now.

“It’s an issue that still needs to be better managed.

“There are already some pro-active measures, such as the so-called Umbrella Against High Prices.

“But this also needs a much more authoritative stance from the Czech government and also somehow financial investment in support of those in need.”