Otto Jelinek - Czech Republic's new International Coordinator for Economic Activities

Otto Jelinek, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic currently has several institutions that promote it abroad. CzechInvest and CzechTrade, for example, focus on business and economics. CzechTourism is self-explanatory, and the country's numerous Czech Centres around the world mainly concentrate on culture. But the work of these agencies has never been co-ordinated. Until now that is. On Wednesday the government announced that Czech-Canadian Otto Jelinek is to become the country's first International Co-ordinator for Economic Activities.

Otto Jelinek, photo: CTK
Mr Jelinek has an impressive CV - he served as a minister in several Canadian governments, and headed the Central Europe office of international consulting firm Deloitte. And if that's not enough, he was a world figure skating champion in the 1960s. Dita Asiedu spoke to him about his new role:

"I guess you could call me a glorified salesman of the Czech Republic, supported by those agencies that are referred to."

Could you just describe briefly what this function involves?

"I'll give you an example. When there is in event or an opportunity to promote tourism in any country in the world, CzechTourism does that without any effort to try to also include the promotion of foreign direct investment or export opportunities or international trade. Then, two weeks later in the same place, it could very well be that CzechInvest is doing some sort of presentation that has nothing related to tourism. My job is two-fold. One is to coordinate these efforts of all these agencies and the other is for me to be the spokesman or the focal point of trying to promote the Czech Republic abroad."

Is there any area that these agencies are not covering that you would like to focus on?

"There may be some; don't forget that this is my first day on the job. But let me point out very clearly that all of those agencies do a tremendous job, so it's not an issue of trying to change the agencies or improve upon them. The effort is going to be here to bring added value and I will be doing a lot of work outside of the Czech Republic.

"My first trip is already planned to Saudi Arabia in the first week of February, where the Minister of Health is leading a delegation and I will be taking advantage of that high-profile delegation to Saudi Arabia to sell the opportunities in the Czech Republic that are related to foreign investment and tourism. Saudi Arabia is a very large potential market for us. If I wasn't going there then obviously the Health Ministry's delegation would only be dealing with health matters, which are very important, but the other situations would not be brought up."