Prague, Aug 11 (CTK) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the Czech Republic on August 25, two diplomatic sources confirmed to CTK on Thursday, adding that Merkel’s programme in Prague includes a meeting with President Milos Zeman.
According to some, Zeman and Merkel’s differing stances on the migrant crisis may be the cause why she did not come to Prague earlier, for example during the long-year Czech presidency of the Visegrad Four group (V4, also including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) that ended on June 30.
“The date of the visit is August 25. A meeting with the president is a part of [Merkel’s] programme. It is to be about an hour long,” said a trustworthy source addressed by CTK.
In mid-July, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said Merkel will come to Prague in August and added that Zeman was looking forward to meeting Merkel in late summer.
Asked by CTK yesterday, Ovcacek repeated that Zeman and Merkel discussed her Czech trip and their meeting at a recent summit of European and Asian countries (ASEM) in Mongolia.
He did not specify the date of her visit.
Merkel’s visit to the Czech Republic has been planned for a long time.
Czech diplomacy sought it during the period of Czech V4 presidency. Merkel did not come to Prague then, however, which some sources linked to the V4 countries’ insufficient manifestation of solidarity with refugees and their rejection of the EU-approved refugee relocation quotas.
Zeman has repeatedly said the acceptance of Muslim refugees increases the threat of terrorism. He has called on the Czech government not to let any migrants enter the Czech Republic.
Unlike him, Merkel has promoted Germany’s accommodating approach to the wave of refugees and demanded that the other EU members do the same.
Behind the scenes, diplomats speculated that Merkel, if she came to Prague for bilateral talks, would not meet Zeman due to their differing stances on migrants.
Daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Thursday that Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) has been striving for Merkel’s visit since he assumed the post in January 2014.
Head of Sobotka’s team of advisers Vladimir Spidla. ex-PM and former EU commissioner, was trying to mediate Merkel’s visit. Spidla supports pro-European policy and calms down the anti-refugee rhetoric. Therefore, he wanted Merkel to speak about the migrant crisis in Prague, MfD writes.
Another adviser to Sobotka, experienced diplomat Rudolf Jindrak, who has been ambassador to Germany for almost eight years, has used his long-time contacts to achieve Merkel’s visit.
However, Jindrak, who is now in charge of strengthening bilateral relations with Germany, refused to confirm her visit to MfD.
The German embassy in Prague was also reserved in this respect, MfD adds.
It writes that Merkel’s visit to Prague at the end of August could play into Sobotka’s hands since he and his party would receive the necessary support five weeks before the October regional and Senate elections in which the migrant crisis would be one of the key topics.
Apart from migration and joint solutions to it, Sobotka would like to talk with Merkel about Turkey and its role in the refugee crisis. Since Germany and the Czech Republic are neighbours, Sobotka and Merkel would also touch upon bilateral issues, such as transport infrastructure and cooperation in science and research as well as in business, Jindrak told MfD.