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Ministr zahraničí Tomáš Petříček
Foto: © MZV/MFA
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Novoroční projev ministra Tomáše Petříčka k diplomatickému sboru

 

24. leden 2020, Černínský palác

Dear Prime Minister Babiš, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and privilege for me to address the diplomatic corps again at the beginning of this year, together with the Prime Minister. This is an occasion for me not only to extend “best wishes” but also to exchange views about events and trends that can be expected in 2020.

This year has not yet given us a chance to calmly reflect, given the rather dramatic events in Iraq in the first days of 2020. This setting is not right for any deep analysis, so let me just say that I sincerely hope that the situation in the Middle East will not aggravate further. The EU as well as NATO have recently sent strong messages to encourage de-escalation.

Last week I returned from India where I had broad and fruitful discussions with the Indian foreign minister and three other ministers, followed by a reception by the Prime Minister. My visit followed up on that of Prime Minister Babiš early last year. Our objective has been to deepen mutual relations, in which we have succeeded and identified further potential, especially in a broader Central European format. Improving business relations is an integral part of that and I had a sizeable business delegation with me, which took part in two business forums. At the international conference “Raisina Dialogue”, I addressed the audience on the issue of European future.

I am mentioning this because it is very timely to speak about the European future indeed. The topic has been at the forefront of our deliberations for quite a while. With the new EU leadership in place, Czechia intends to actively engage in the “Conference on the Future of Europe”.

We and other Member States, together with the EU institutions, should jointly define the changes we need in order to make the EU stronger, more cohesive, fairer, more secure and last but not least more effective. After all, the Czech Presidency of the EU is approaching and we will be amongst those who finalise or start to implement the results of those deliberations in the second semester of 2022. This gives us a rather fresh and – indeed – specific task for our Presidency.

The Czech Presidency in the Visegrad Group can be helpful in this regard as Czechia has put a clear emphasis on the European agenda in the V4 setting.

Before we pass the V4 Presidency to our Polish friends in the summer, we will still have busy agenda on our plates. I am preparing several Ministerial meetings in Prague. The V4 will welcome Western Balkans partners in February, Eastern Partners in April, and Nordic Baltic countries in June.

Our traditional conference focused on European developments, the Prague European Summit, will follow up back to back with this last-mentioned V4 gathering. It will give an opportunity to the Nordic Baltic ministers to address the Summit as keynote speakers on key European affairs.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europe currently stands in front of a major change.  Hopefully, the most dramatic part of the Brexit saga is slowly but surely coming to its resolution, with the UK leaving us in couple of days. It will be key for the EU to negotiate a solid and robust agreement for the future, which will appreciate the UK as a crucial partner. I dare say that the interest on both sides of the Channel lies in a deep cooperation in certain areas such as research, education, security, defence or intelligence. We are more than ready to contribute to this process.

This brings me to the European Commission in its new composition. President von der Leyen has begun her work with a strong determination. She has set an ambitious agenda.  Apart from the already published documents with respect to the Green Deal and Social Europe, the ones on industrial policy and migration are soon to follow. All over these documents, there is a common principle: to make the EU a genuine global leader and responsible neighbour. As every member state, we have our specificities, but in principle we will be ready to take part in this endeavour.

From the perspective of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commission’s priorities should put an emphasis on open trade, reaffirming the European perspective for Western Balkans countries and deepening ties with non-European states, in particular with a view to revamping the Eastern Partnership policy.

It will be against this backdrop that we will enter into a trialogue with Sweden and France on our trio priorities for the EU Council Presidency.

Now, as regards our other key foreign policy priorities for this year…

Regarding NATO: A strategic reflection on the political role of the Alliance will feature high on the Czech agenda. We are fully aware of the challenges ahead of us. Czechia will support even closer cooperation with the EU as regards the effective division of labour in countering hybrid threats. Secondly, we are going to keep our attention to the robust deterrence to the eastern flank of the Alliance.

Regarding Africa: We will work more intensively with our African partners, especially in the Sahel region. To demonstrate this trend we have recently opened our Embassy in Mali. Our aim is to help international efforts to fight terrorism as well as to contribute to the stabilisation of the region including through our development assistance. We will participate in European military missions aimed to support the countries in the region against threats to the rule of law. Notably, we will take over the command of the EU Training Mission for the Malian army in June this year.

Regarding Strategic partnerships: We will focus on deepening the long-standing partnerships with our traditional allies, such as the US. It is key to nurture relations, especially in uncertain and turbulent times that we have been through. At the same time, we will work on defining new “Strategic partnerships” with other likeminded countries.

Regarding International organisations: In our current position as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as our presidency of the Human Dimension Committee of the OSCE, Czechia will keep its traditional focus on countering flagrant violations of human rights. As an example, we are following closely the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. Czechia will continue to be very active as to participation in EU and OSCE electoral observation missions. We also hope that budgetary or other issues will not stand in the way of a successful reform of multilateral organisations, including, of course, the UN as well as WTO.

Regarding the service for our citizens: Effective consular assistance delivery abroad through our Embassy network has always been at the forefront of our yearly reflection. Indeed, we are planning new initiatives to that aim. In the more interconnected and less secure environment of today, it is imperative to assure even better services to Czech citizens abroad, including in the area of economic diplomacy.  

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this year as before, we are ready to deliver on our responsibilities to our citizens and on our commitments to partners. In doing so, we will be furthering both our interests as well as our values.

Let me conclude by a rather practical but nonetheless important matter. I wish to establish even closer ties among our diplomatic community and the MFA. I believe that sports are great means of healthy communication and relations in general.  In concrete, I would like to extend to you my invitation for the Czech diplomatic cup. In addition, let me hint that we are planning to organise a dragon boat contest as well as a football tournament. If you are active and like keeping fit, I invite you to stay tuned to these upcoming activities, you will certainly not regret.

And now, without further ado, let me pass the floor to Prime Minister Babiš.  Thank you very much for being with us!

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