Prague, Dec 22 (CTK) – Greece has recalled its ambassador to the Czech Republic for consultations in Athens over President Milos Zeman’s statements about it, the Greek embassy told CTK yesterday.
The Czech Foreign Ministry said it considers the step, which is a strong form of protest in diplomacy, as exceptional.
Zeman said recently the Czech Republic could only enter the euro zone after Greece’s participation in it is resolved.
He also criticised Athens for sluggishness in the protection of the Schengen border and the accepting of refugees.
“Yesterday, the ambassador flew from Prague to Athens where he was recalled for consultations,” Eva Zizkova, from the Greek embassy in Prague, said.
“It was a decision of the Greek Foreign Ministry,” she said, adding that she would not elaborate.
The Greek embassy confirmed for CTK that ambassador Panayotis Sarris left Prague over Zeman´s statements about Greece´s membership of the euro zone that he made on Tuesday last week.
The Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed Athens´ step for CTK. Its spokeswoman Michaela Lagronova said Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek wants to call his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Kotzias at noon on Wednesday and ask him about the reasons of Greece´s decision.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Greece´s step is unnecessary, but criticised Zeman´s statements.
“Given how close within the European Union we are, such a gesture is rather unnecessary. In such a situation, I would expect the Greek prime minister to come and convey his objections,” Sobotka told public Czech Television (CT) yesterday.
He said, however, Greece was Europe´s favourite “whipping boy” at the time of the financial crisis as well as at the time of the migrant crisis neither of which it caused.
“I am not in favour of kicking Europe´s whipping boy number one,” Sobotka said adding that the mistakes which other countries believe Greece has made should be given proper names.
The Czech Republic should avoid giving advice on who should be or should not be in the euro zone if it alone is not its member.
The ERT television station said Greece has been unhappy about certain statements against it being repeated. Athens´ patience was exhausted when Zeman told the Slovak news agency TASR that the Czech Republic will only enter the euro zone one day after Greece leaves it.
Constantinos Koutras, spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry, told the French news agency AFP that Greece previously sent a protest note to the Czech Republic over a series of anti-Greece statements made by Czech officials.
However, nothing has changed and that is why protest steps have started to be taken, AFP quotes Koutras as saying.
ERT said this is also a signal to other Central European countries, specifically Hungary and Slovakia, whose politicians have also made anti-Greece statements.
The Greek Foreign Ministry recently summoned the Czech ambassador to Greece to convey to him “hard recommendations” on how Prague should behave in relation to Athens.
Referring to diplomatic sources, the CNN Greece television station said Greece demands that the Czech Republic apologise to it.
Greek-Czech relations have reached “the freezing point” following Zeman´s statements, ERT said and referring to Sarris, it said they are now at the worst level in history.
According to Greek media, Athens is one step short of complete severance of diplomatic relations with the Czech Republic. Greek sources say the relations can again improve if the controversial statements are “corrected.”
The Czech Presidential Office has declined to comment on Greece’s step.
“Anyway, I will not comment on the step itself for diplomatic reasons,” Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told CTK.
He wondered why Greece has taken the step just now, while Zeman made similar statements in past already.
“The President publicly stated his opinion in the past months. He has insisted on the opinion and he will continue to present it publicly,” Ovcacek said.
Zeman commented on the situation in the euro zone in an interview with the Slovak news agency TASR a week ago and said the Czech Republic should introduce the euro.
“My only apprehension about the adoption of the euro amid the present stabilisation mechanism is that Czech taxpayers would have to cover the Greek debts. I was very disappointed by the outcome of the [summer] negotiations that were close to ‘Grexit’, but finally resulted in Greece’s remaining in the euro zone,” Zeman said.