President Steinmeier stresses pressing need for EU unity in Prague
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday paid his first official visit to the Czech Republic since taking office.
At a joint press briefing following the talks President Zeman focused mainly on bilateral ties.
“One of the big projects in bilateral cooperation is the plan to establish fast rail-links between Prague and Berlin and Prague and Munich. We discussed cooperation in science and research as well as cooperation in the industrial sphere. As you know Volkswagen is extremely popular in the Czech Republic and Skoda Auto is our leading exporter. But we have some catching up to do -while there are some 4,000 German firms doing business in the Czech Republic, there are only about 150 Czech firms active in Germany – I think that in about 20 to 30 years we could even that out.”
President Steinmeier said he was happy to see how far the two countries had come since the signing of the Czech-German Declaration on Good-neighbourly Relations twenty years ago, a revitalization that he said was also made possible thanks to the work of the Czech-German Fund for the Future and the Czech-German Discussion Forum. However, the German president devoted more time to pressing European issues saying it was vital for the Czech Republic and Germany to cooperate in securing unity and cooperation within the EU.
“The European crisis which are now facing concerns many more issues than just the migrant crisis. We need to stand together not just in the Brexit negotiations, the 27 members need to overcome the crisis sparked by Brexit, we need to find consensus on how to secure economic growth for Europe, we need to find consensus on security matters. That is where the Czech Republic and Germany need to stand side-by-side.”
The two officials also failed to see eye to eye on the sanctions against Russia. While President Zeman has long been pushing for them to be lifted, on the argument that they are ineffective, President Steinmeier said that without progress in the peace process with Ukraine the sanctions must stay in place.
However, the German president added that, despite their differences, the two heads of state knew each well enough to sit down and thrash them out.