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Czech News in English » Opinion » LN: Brexit is impetus for Prague to eye North-South cooperation

LN: Brexit is impetus for Prague to eye North-South cooperation

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Prague, Oct 7 (CTK) – Prague’s opportunities for diplomatic manoeuvring in the EU will diminish after Brexit, and it will have to seek allies along the North-South line, apart from the West-East line, Roman Joch writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) Friday.
Some say Britain must be severely punished for its daring to leave the EU, but this is a totally erratic and insane idea. On the contrary, it is necessary to strive for the economic and political relations with Britain to remain as friendly as possible after Brexit, Joch, director of the Prague-seated Civic Institute, writes.
The forthcoming changes in the EU-British relations should be as small as possible. Britain is a friend and an important ally, Joch writes.
The prospect of Brexit has provoked triple fears. First, it might result in Britain moving away from Europe and reducing its participation in European defence.
Second, the German-French tandem might start dominating the EU.
Third, Russia’s power and influence might consequently rise, Joch writes.
Fortunately, the first trend has not been confirmed in practice, which events such as the NATO summit in Warsaw has shown. Britain continues to be ready and able to meet its NATO commitments and it does care for European security, Joch writes.
In this connection, the proposals to create a common EU military are unfortunate, because if created now, it would probably be a project to the detriment of NATO, Joch writes.
It is not known what threats may emerge in future, and therefore it cannot be ruled out that the EU will need a common army with a shared top command one day, Joch writes.
However, the EU faces no such situation now. By saying it does, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka acts irresponsibly. Prague’s spending on defence has been below the promised 2 percent of GDP to keep NATO effective, Joch writes.
Only after Prague raises its defence spending to 2 percent at least, can the prime minister afford to spend more money on building a European army. Until then, his calls for the common army will be totally meaningless. They are even harmful because they irritate the British, whom the EU urgently needs to help ensure European defence and security, Joch writes.
In the debates on crucial affairs, the EU has sometimes been dominated by a British-French alliance, while on other occasions the British sided with Germany or the French with Germany. This situation is advantageous for small countries such as Czech Republic, which can move within this triangle, Joch writes.
The small countries’ opportunity for manoeuvring will decrease after Brexit, when the triangle would shrink to a German-French duo. Aware of this, small countries have intensified their assertiveness. This applies not only to the Visegrad Four (V4) group’s approach to migration, but also to Austria, which tends to emancipate from Germany and come closer to the V4 (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Joch writes.
The northern countries will also supposedly show a similar trend, he writes.
Czechoslovak (and later Czech and Slovak) diplomacy has always sought a protector or a patron big power along the East-West line, he continues.
For interwar Czechoslovakia, such a patron was Paris, for the wartime Slovak State it was Berlin, for the post-war Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes and for the communist regime it was Moscow, and after the 1989 fall of communism in Czechoslovakia it was Washington (NATO) and Brussels (EU), Joch writes.
At present, some would like Moscow to become Prague’s protector again, and “some, in a fit of delirium, even want Beijing to play the role,” Joch writes, alluding to President Milos Zeman and the centre-left coalition cabinet.
The Czech Republic should try to complement its full-fledged membership of NATO and the EU with the opinions of possible alliances and cooperation along the North-South line. It should eye Warsaw, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and possibly also Zagreb and Bucharest. As far as the eastern policy towards Russia is concerned, Prague should also pay attention to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki, let alone Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw once again, Joch writes.

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