PM pushes for Kosovo recognition ahead of NATO summit

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

Just days ago the country’s Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek suggested that Czech recognition of Kosovo was a decision that would have wait. But at the weekend he changed his mind: now he has said he will push for the government to officially recognise the former Serb province ahead of the upcoming NATO summit. The decision won’t be an easy one: coalition members the Christian Democrats have already signalled they are against.

Mirek Topolánek and Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: CTK
As it stands 24 European countries have officially recognised Kosovo as Europe’s newest state, roughly a month-and-a-half after the formerly Serb province declared independence. But the Czech Republic is not one of them, at least not yet, a situation the prime minister would like to see changed. He said at the weekend that there was now “no alternative” than to recognise the breakaway province, stressing he would push for a decision this Wednesday ahead of the NATO summit in Bucharest.

But this will not be easy: coalition members the Christian Democrats have come out against recognition for Kosovo and could scupper the prime minister’s plan. The party’s leader Jiří Čunek has made clear that debate on the issue in government will be heated and even the country’s foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, has said he will not push for a Wednesday decision – on the grounds that cabinet ministers might need more time.

Meanwhile, opposition parties the Communists and the Social Democrats aren’t pulling any punches. At the weekend Communist Party head Vojtěch Filip lashed out at the cabinet over its foreign policy, saying it appeared the government had “gone mad”. There was still more criticism from others: deputy speaker of the lower house and Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek pointed to alleged criminal ties by the Kosovar elite; he spoke to public broadcaster Czech TV:

Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
“In my opinion, [a country] is being created which is unable to exist as anything other than a ‘failed’ state under the guardianship of the European Union.”

Kosovan independence is a difficult issue, one that not even the prime minister can be particularly thrilled about: although Mirek Topolánek has made clear recognition of the new state is unavoidable, he too appears to have no illusions: at the weekend he called Kosovo a “boil” on the western Balkans for which there was “no good solution”. He also made clear the only reason the Czech Republic would recognise the country was so as not to tarnish EU and NATO relations. Finally, he stressed it would be better to back the breakaway province now rather than later: one, to legitimise Czech military forces serving on a peace mission there and two, to precede planned elections in Serbia.