Prime Minister Sobotka endorses Havel legacy on US visit
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s ongoing visit to the United States has been marked by efforts to boost his country’s standing with the US administration. The country’s reputation in Washington has suffered after several senior Czech officials signalled the abandonment of a human-rights driven foreign policy shaped during the presidency of Václav Havel.
He is scheduled to attend the ceremonial unveiling of a bust of Václav Havel in the US Capitol later on Wednesday. But the highlight of his trip came when he met with the US vice president, Joe Biden on Tuesday.
After spending an hour and 15 minutes with Mr Biden, the Czech prime minister told reporters the meeting had confirmed the good relations between their countries.
“I came not only to attend this unveiling ceremony but also to subscribe to the principles that Václav Havel as president promoted in Czech foreign policy.
“Vice President Biden paid tribute to the Czech Republic’s activities in promoting human rights. To use his own words, he said that the Czech Republic was punching above its weight.”
Czech President Miloš Zeman has repeatedly denied knowledge of Russia’s influence in the conflict, contradicting the view of NATO leaders and other allies. His recent visit to China has also raised eyebrows.
Some officials at the Czech Foreign Ministry have meanwhile suggested the country should steer its foreign policy away from the human rights emphasis it has pursued since the presidency of Václav Havel.
In an effort to undo the damage, Prime Minister Sobotka publicly endorsed Václav Havel’s legacy before leaving Prague. But commentator Erik Best doubts this alone will convince Washington that the Czechs remain reliable allies.
“I think the US would like to believe that the Czechs still subscribe to the policies put forward by Václav Havel that human rights play an important role in their foreign policy. For instance, the US ambassador put on twitter a very positive comment about a very strong alliance.
After Washington, the Czech delegation headed by Mr. Sobotka will move to Texas to meet with members of the state’s Czech community.