Press: Points system aimed at boosting embassies’ support for Czech firms

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

The Czech Republic’s embassies and consuls have traditionally been active in supporting Czech businesses and “economic diplomacy” has become a watchword for President Miloš Zeman and other senior politicians.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aiming to make diplomats more effective in this regard by introducing a points system that could result in performance bonuses, the business daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Friday.

The head of economic diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martin Tlapa, told the newspaper that, as in other state services, it was important to know whether its employees were doing good work.

The new points system has two planks. Officials from the ministry’s Černín Palace headquarters will contact Czech firms that have worked with individual embassies and consuls to find out how beneficial the cooperation has proved.

They will also get a picture of diplomats’ effectiveness by liaising with professional associations such as the Czech Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Confederation of Industry.

In addition, embassy staff will be encouraged to keep their eyes open for opportunities they can relay to Czech firms.

Naturally, conditions and opportunities will vary depending on where the Czech diplomatic missions are located – and the points system will take this into account, Hospodářské noviny said.

Up to now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has had no dedicated system for evaluating its diplomats’ effectiveness in supporting Czech businesses, merely relying on random reports on individual employees and subjective assessments.

The ministry plans to make the results of a pilot version of the points system public at the end of June, when Czech economic diplomats from around the world gather in Prague.

The Foreign Ministry’s Martin Tlapa says the system will be important as a means of rewarding outstanding diplomatic missions and improving those that are not passing muster.

The results will be published every six months, with embassies and consuls being placed in one of three categories depending on results.

Staff at missions in the “A” category can expect special bonuses reflecting Czech firms’ satisfaction with their work, according to Hospodářské noviny.

There were 120 dedicated economic diplomats at the country’s embassies and consuls at the beginning of 2015. Ten more should be added to their number in the course of this year with another 16 set to be dispatched next year.

New posts are not just open to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials – staff at the Ministry of Industry and Trade and (for some jobs) the Ministry of Agriculture may also apply to serve the country abroad.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade have developed a joint training programme for economic diplomats. The training includes a short internship at a Czech export company.