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Zeman criticised over suggestion Nečas government under thumb of US and EU

ČTK |
29 March 2016

Prague, March 28 (CTK) - Czech right-wing opposition TOP 09 and Civic Democrats (ODS) yesterday said President Milos Zeman's fresh statement that Czech-Chinese relations were very bad because the previous government succumbed to the pressure from the USA and the EU was repulsive and servile towards China.
Before yesterday's arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Prague, Zeman said in an interview with China's CCTV television that a new beginning is coming because the previous Czech government of Petr Necas (ODS) had very bad relations with China as it was under the pressure of the European Union and the United States.
Zeman told CCTV that the Czech Republic is an independent country once again now and it forms its own foreign policy based on its own interests and that it does not interfere in the affairs of any other country.
The Communists (opposition KSCM) backed Zeman, agreeing with his criticism.
The parties of the government coalition differed in their reactions. The Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) expressed their disagreement and the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka have not reacted yet. ANO foreign expert Pavel Telicka sharply criticised Zeman, but ANO leader Andrej Babis later showed understanding for the president.
Miroslav Kalousek, leader of the right-wing opposition TOP 09, said Zeman made such "repulsive statements" deliberately.
"As the Czech Republic is part of the EU, the EU cannot be something that would exert pressure on us from the outside. The USA is our partner within NATO. The president's statement in fact rejects the long-term foreign and security policy of the country," said Kalousek who was finance minister in the Necas government.
Kalousek said the Czech foreign trade with China increased most sharply in the years when Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), known for his criticism of human rights violation, was Czech foreign minister.
Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek says on Twitter in reaction that the president returned pride to the Czech Republic after a sad period of servile crouching directed by TOP 09.
Opposition leader Petr Fiala (ODS) said Zeman sought to move the Czech Republic to the East.
"It is right to develop economic relations with China, but we mustn't fall on our knees and deny the values to which we have adhered until now," Fiala said.
ANO MEP Telicka said Zeman talked about Czech key allies and the EU, of which the country is a part, in a callous and opportunist way and showed "a shameful servility towards China."
But Finance Minister Babis said Zeman efforts seemed to be a restart of Czech-Chinese relations.
Babis, a billionaire who owns the giant Agrofert chemical, food-processing and media holding, said Zeman's statements meant to him that "the Czech Republic finally started understanding foreign policy as a means to meet economic interests, which was not usual before."
Unlike in other countries, China practically does not invest in the Czech Republic, Babis said. Only one Chinese investment group is active in the country, but its investments have no influence on the Czech budget and employment, he added.
Babis said he believes that this would change thanks to the visit of Xi Jinping.
He said he hoped that the visit would lead to a considerable increase in Czech exports to China and that the Chinese would make investments that would create new jobs in the Czech Republic and that they would not only invest in private firms, real estate and low quality media.
Vice Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek (KDU-CSL) said he had a different view than Zeman. He said human rights are universal, irrespective of cultural differences.
Communist chairman Vojtech Filip agreed with Zeman's criticism of the former right-wing government.
Filip said the Necas government completely relied on U.S. orders rather than sought Czech national interests.
The present government is unable to clearly distance itself from the absolutely mistaken migration policy of the EU, he said.
Filip said he would like the Czech government to be able to guarantee the right to development to such a percentage of the people as the Chinese government.
Necas rejected Zeman' criticism. He told CTK it was his government that made a U-turn to a more pragmatic policy in relation to China.
Kalousek said there were two lines of Czech foreign policy now.
The first line is personified by PM Sobotka and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (both CSSD) who appropriately respect the long-term direction of the Czech foreign policy and allied commitments, he said.
The second line moves the direction towards the Kremlin and is servile towards authoritarian regimes and it is represented primarily by President Zeman, who was joined by Finance Minister Babis, Kalousek said.
kva/dr

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