Prague draws red line in growing foreign policy discord with former sister state

Jan Lipavský and Petr Fiala

Relations between Czechia and Slovakia, which were part of one country for over seven decades, have consistently been described as “exceptional”. But mounting differences over foreign policy have now led the Czech government to suspend a planned joint meeting of the two cabinets in what is seen as a clear message that Prague wants to distance itself from Bratislava’s pro-Russian stance.

Inter-governmental consultations between the former sister states have been taking place since 2012, highlighting the special relationship between the two neighbours. And, although linguistically close, the countries’ leaders no longer understand each other. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said the differences in basic values and key security issues were so great there was no point in getting together.

Jan Lipavský | Photo: René Volfík,

“From the position of foreign minister, I want to make it clear that we are not prepared to make concessions on security. Our place is in the Western community of nations. The reason why we cancelled the intergovernmental consultations is that our views on the Russian aggression against Ukraine are radically different.”

The two countries differences begun when Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, returned to office in October of last year and effected a U-turn in foreign policy. He ended state-funded military support for Ukraine, criticized the EU sanctions against Russia and has consistently advocated the need to end the war, even if it means ceding territory to Moscow. This at a time when Czechia is gathering support for its initiative to buy shells for Ukraine so that the country can defend itself against Russian aggression and warning that Moscow’s expansionism would not stop at Ukraine’s borders.

A recent V4 summit of Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary highlighted the deep divide in the alliance with Prague and Warsaw in favour of supporting Ukraine and Bratislava and Budapest leaning towards Moscow. Even then, the atmosphere was frosty and the last straw for Prague came when Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanár met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey in early March.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala cancelled the upcoming intergovernmental session with the Slovak cabinet, saying the two sides had nothing to discuss at this point. Despite the rift, Foreign Minister Lipavský dismissed suggestions that there was a serious crisis in Czech-Slovak relations.

“We will certainly not summon our ambassador in Bratislava home for consultations. That would be a step that would mean that we have a really fundamental crisis in relations and that is not the case. But as a government we decided unanimously that we do not want to have that special moment in relations with the Slovak cabinet because this is not the right time for it.”

Robert Fico | Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico lashed out at the Czech government over the decision, accusing Prague of jeopardizing the special relationship between Czechs and Slovaks in order to support a military conflict. Meanwhile, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová who also differs with the Slovak prime minister in her foreign policy views, expressed regret over the breach, saying she would continue to promote good relations with Czechia and warning that by weakening its foreign policy in terms of values, Bratislava was risking “losing friends”.

Author: Daniela Lazarová | Sources: Český rozhlas , ČTK
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