“Gentleman’s agreement” with China at center of political scandal in Prague
The scandal surrounding a recent visit to Prague by the Dalai Lama has turned the spotlight on Czech foreign policy and the strings attached to the country’s strategic partnership with China. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on Sunday accused the culture minister of having breached a Gentleman's Agreement with China that Czech cabinet ministers would refrain from official contacts with the Dalai Lama.
Now the storm of controversy has moved to the Office of the Government. Defending a declaration which the country’s top officials issued to reassure China that Prague fully respected the country’s territorial integrity, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said it would not have been necessary had one member of Cabinet –Culture Minister Herman – respected an unwritten agreement in the cabinet that its members would refrain from official contacts with the Dalai Lama. He indicated that this was part of the deal with China.
Prime Minister Sobotka and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, both confirmed the existence of such an agreement, and the prime minister noted that as a member of the cabinet Culture Minister Herman should have considered whether his actions were in line with the government’s official policy.
Minister Herman claims he made no promises to anyone.
“I did not break any agreement, because I never made such a commitment – it goes against my conscience. It is as if someone asked me not to meet with the Pope.”