New Merkel mandate seen as best scenario for Czech Republic

Angela Merkel, photo: CTK

Angela Merkel is sworn into office for her fourth term on Wednesday. And while that might be the best scenario for neighbour, the Czech Republic, it will also step up the pressure to get a stable Czech government in place.

Angela Merkel,  photo: CTK
Angela Merkel’s decision to open the doors to immigrants without consulting her partners clearly created rifts with the Czech Republic and other Central European countries that have still to heal. The ongoing arguments about shared quotas for immigrants, which the Czech Republic and other Central European countries have opposed, is proof of that.

But in many ways Merkel is regarded as sympathetic to the Czech Republic and other Central European countries. She has personal ties after spending half a year in Prague in the early 1980’s on a short research programme.

And for the most part she is regarded as having made efforts to consult and bring along the Central European countries on European reforms when she did not necessarily have to bother. Some analysts warned that if Social Democrat leader Martin Schultz had been chancellor, Central European countries would have got shorter shift.

Vladimír Handl is an expert on German affairs connected to the Prague-based Institute of International Relations. He says the new mandate for Merkel is the best scenario the Czech Republic could hope for:

ʺI think the Czech Republic can expect a partner who will continue to systematically build Czech-German relations. I do not think there will be any fundamental change in policy, economic or political. And on the issues where there are differences, they will still be on the table but I don’t think there will be any major change or crisis situation.ʺ

Handl says the immigration and immigration quotas issue is one of those problematic issues that won’t go away. But he says Berlin has higher foreign policy priorities that it would like to push ahead with

ʺThat issue will remain, it’s one of those ongoing problematic issues. But the main question for German policy is how to reform and make the European Union functional.ʺ

Vladimír Handl,  photo: archive of Institute of International Relations
While Handl characterises Czech foreign policy as largely pragmatic, the long term lack of a Czech government position on many of the looming areas concerning reform of the European Union or whether to sign up for the euro area will start becoming an increasing problem now that a stable German government is in place.

ʺGenerally, I think that our biggest problem in relations with our German partner is the asymmetry. It’s not an asymmetry in terms of power but in terms of politics. The problem with Czech politics is that there is a really big problem forming a government from which the parties could put together a foreign policy.ʺ

The near half year wait for a new German government meant that many European questions were stalled or at best found themselves in the slow lane. Now the talks should begin again in earnest and the brakes will not be put on if a properly constituted Czech government is not in place to make its contribution.