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Gov’t binds ministers to discuss foreign contacts beforehand

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Prague, Nov 2 (CTK) – Czech ministers will discuss key foreign political activities with the foreign minister beforehand instead of merely informing him of them, the cabinet decided on Wednesday after they debated the circumstances of the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Prague, Culture Minister Daniel Herman told journalists.

In the past days, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) complained that Herman informed him about his planned October 18 meeting with the Dalai Lama by phone only a few hours beforehand, when he was staying abroad, which left him with only a slim chance of reacting.

The meeting took place in Herman’s office at the ministry.

Zaoralek asked his fellow ministers on Wednesday to promise to keep to the strategic decisions on Prague’s foreign policy.

After the cabinet meeting he said he considers the debate closed.

On Tuesday, Zaoralek said he wanted the minutes from the two-year-old cabinet meeting, which reportedly agreed on ministers’ approach to the Dalai Lama, to be presented to the meeting on Wednesday, which did not happen, however.

Herman and Zaoralek said this is a matter of secondary importance. Herman told journalists that he even does not know whether the minutes from the meeting exist.

He said the cabinet thoroughly discussed his recent meeting with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday.

“We assessed the situation and decided that it would be good to discuss affairs well in advance. Crucial foreign political affairs must be discussed with the foreign minister. Two years ago, we [ministers] agreed on informing [the foreign minister],” Herman said.

Confirming the new agreement, Zaoralek said it would be unacceptable for him to face further “surprises” similar to the Herman-Dalai Lama meeting.

At the same time, Zaoralek praised the other ministers for having discussed important foreign political affairs with him.

He also said the cabinet agreed on adhering to the Czech-Chinese strategic partnership.

“I do not want to escalate [the controversy]. I want to believe that we will discuss similar matters in time,” Zaoralek said.

Herman said he does not consider his meeting with the Dalai Lama a mistake. On the contrary, he views the following developments as positive for his life.

Later on October 18, President Milos Zeman, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the heads of the two houses of parliament released an official declaration confirming Prague’s respect for the integrity of China, including Tibet as its part, and distancing themselves from Herman’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Critics say the “statement of four” was servile to China and humiliating for the Czech Republic.

Referring to the government’s debate on Wednesday, Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek (CSSD) said it had character of a psychotherapeutic session.

“I am very glad that the debate took place and the government took a [joint] position,” Mladek said, adding that the developments benefit neither the Czech economy nor foreign policy.

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