Slovak president expresses understanding for protesters during first state visit to Prague

Zuzana Čaputová, photo: ČTK/Václav Šálek

The new Slovak president, Zuzana Čaputová, visited Prague on Thursday, in her first foreign visit. The liberal politician stressed the importance of Visegrad Four cooperation as well as expressing understanding for those who are currently taking part in protests in the Czech Republic.

Zuzana Čaputová,  photo: ČTK/Václav Šálek
It is traditional for Czech and Slovak presidents to undertake their first foreign visit to the other country. The freshly inaugurated Slovak head of state, Zuzana Čaputová, honoured this custom when she met with Czech state representatives in Prague on Thursday.

Zuzana Čaputová was welcomed by Czech President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle, with the pair extending compliments to each other at a news conference. They also agreed on the establishment of a Czech Centre in Bratislava.

The Slovak head of state said that there were no disagreements between them when it came to foreign policy, at least as far as the topics that were discussed.

However, she did express indirect concern for what some see as issues currently threatening the Visegrad Four countries.

“I do not think that the use of this bloc has been exhausted by our entry into the European Union and I will be very happy if we continue to look for common themes, as well as promoting our shared interests. At the same time, we need to respect values which are very important, such as the rule of law and an independent judiciary. We need to insist on this and work hard towards achieving those goals.”

Both also agreed on a joint celebration of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, although the Czech president’s long statement carried a hint of disapproval with some of those currently invoking its spirit.

“Thanks to the fact that I am very old, I had a chance to actively take part in the Velvet Revolution. I have a feeling sometimes that those who profess to it today never took part in that revolution during their lifetimes. Indeed, in some cases they were even on the other side of the barricade.”

Zuzana Čaputová,  Miloš Zeman,  photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl
The Slovak leader visited the tomb of former president Václav Havel, one of the icons of 1989, tweeting that she was “humbled to lay wreath on Václav Havel’s grave”, who’s “relentless fight for freedom and democracy has always been an inspiration” to her.

She then attended a concert held in her honour and expressed her understanding of the recent mass protest on Wenceslas square, which she indirectly compared to the mass demonstrations which took place in the Slovak capital of Bratislava in March of the previous year, following the death of journalist Ján Kuciak.

“I can understand Wenceslas Square being filled with calm people, because I understood the squares in Bratislava. We are connected by this calm tone and that is important.”