PM Sobotka: Czech-German Declaration installed trust

Prague, Jan 30 (CTK) – The Czech-German Declaration created trust between the two countries, on which one can rely when looking for joint answers to the challenges faced by the present-day Europe and the world, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said at a conference on its 20th anniversary on Monday.

Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the relations between the Czech Republic and Germany were the best in modern history.

“By signing the declaration and the subsequent 20 years of intensive development we have overcome a long period of the relations that were defined by Frantisek Palacky (19th century Czech national leader) as the time of bilateral contacts, but also bilateral conflicts,” Sobotka said.

“Quality Czech-German relations have become a major part of a positive and calm development in Central Europe or the EU as our joint cultural and political home,” Sobotka said.

“In this context, I can see Czech-German relations along with the Visegrad Four group (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) as being among the basic pillars of our care for Central Europe,” he added.

At a ceremonial meeting at Charles University later on Monday, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD) said the Declaration gave a new sense to whole Central Europe.

“The era of mutual resentment or vigilance is over and we can follow up our common cultural legacy at last,” Zaoralek said, referring to the effect of the Declaration.

Thanks to it, Czechs and Germans have finally stopped being rivals and started to tackle world problems jointly, Zaoralek said.

Sobotka warned that the excellent relations between the Czech Republic and Germany should not be taken for granted.

“They must not be seen so. If anything, this should commit us to put up the maximum efforts to maintain the quality even in the future,” Sobotka said.

He stressed the opening of a strategic dialogue between the Czech Republic and Germany, which is very intensive especially in the sphere of science and research.

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt, co-chairman of the Czech-German Discussion Forum, said a dialogue between the Czech Republic and Germany was underway without any taboos.

It is transpiring that the young generation is not burdened with any old fears, Schmidt said.

He also stressed that thanks to the declaration many things had been implemented that could not be imagined 20 years ago.

He cited the example of the session of the Czech-German Discussion Forum in Terezin, North Bohemia, and the fact that an office of the Sudeten German Association was working in Prague. This proves that the spirit of the declaration was fulfilled, he added.

The Czech Republic must not throw away the good relations with Germany due to the dispute over the redistribution of refugees among European countries, former Czech ambassador to Germany Rudolf Jindrak said at the conference.

Prague and Berlin have the same or similar views of most European issues, Sobotka’s advisor Jindrak said.

The declaration helped push Czech-German relations to such a level that could not be imagined at the time it was signed, he added.

It must not happen that the relations would start worsening over the migrant crisis. The diplomacy has already reached the brink of such a situation, Jindrak said.

“In some stages, there was the real threat that we will write off 20 years of what we have accomplished over a single affair in which we do not fully comprehend one another,” Jindrak said.

“Within the EU, Germany is one of the most reliable partners for the Czech Republic,” he added.

The Declaration on Bilateral Relations and their Future Development, in which the two countries pledged not to burden bilateral relations with controversial issues from the past and focus on future cooperation instead, was signed in on January 21, 1997 by former German chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) and Czech prime minister Vaclav Klaus (Civic Democratic Party, ODS).

It took 18 months for the difficult negotiations to be finished.

Although Sobotka praised the Declaration on Monday, he was among about a half of Czech lawmakers from the CSSD, then the senior opposition party, who did not support it in the Chamber of Deputies’ vote on February 14, 1997.

Of the 58 CSSD deputies, 31 supported the declaration, including Zaoralek and Milos Zeman, then CSSD chairman and current president.