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ForMin’s pro-western policy fades away under pressure

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Prague, June 16 (CTK) – Lubomir Zaoralek’s (Social Democrats, CSSD) beginning as Czech foreign minister in 2014 was promising but he later yielded to the pressure of President Milos Zeman and some CSSD MPs, and his recent performance is a disappointment, Katerina Safarikova says in Lidove noviny (LN) Tuesday.

Zaoralek is in charge of Czech foreign policy but in fact he is not in control of it, which is a rare phenomenon in the political world, Safarikova writes in the daily.

After the CSSD’s national congress in March, which smoothly re-elected Zaoralek as a CSSD deputy chairman, a hope arose that he would pull together and return to his policy as pursued in his first months as foreign minister, Safarikova writes.

At the time, amid the outburst of the Ukrainian crisis in the first half of 2014, Zaoralek proved himself as a foreign minister optimal for both the CSSD and the Czech Republic. He showed a pro-western orientation and he offered cooperation to the ministry’s staff who served under the previous right-wing governments, Safarikova writes.

However, this provoked critical reactions of some CSSD lawmakers and also an escalating pressure from President Zeman. Yielding to it, Zaoralek withdrew from his resolute positions and he has never resumed them since, Safarikova writes.

This is most visible in Prague’s approach to Ukraine, which Zaoralek allows to be shaped by the Presidential Office and by the personal ambitions of his deputy ministers and insinuators who all have one thing in common – they are indifferent to the Czech Republic’s interests, Safarikova writes.

This tendency culminated by the recent blocking of the EU-Ukraine association agreement in the Czech Chamber of Deputies by twenty opposition Communist (KSCM) lawmakers, she continues.

Although the CSSD is the strongest party in the Chamber and Zaoralek himself is an experienced parliamentary official, aided by two deputy foreign ministers from the CSSD, and although Ukraine is an issue of an utmost importance, Zaoralek’s people could not prevent the agreement’s blocking, Safarikova writes.

In mid-May, the lawmakers approved the KSCM’s proposal that the EU-Ukraine agreement not be discussed at the Chamber’s ongoing session.

The Czech aid to Ukraine has newly shrunk to the size of aid provided by Estonia, a country eight times smaller than the Czech Republic, Safarikova continues, citing a report by the U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs.

The Czech government likes to boast of providing medical treatment to foreign civilians wounded in their conflict-ridden homelands, but it has not provided any such aid this year, unlike Greece, a country threatened with bankruptcy, Safarikova writes.

The Czech Republic lacks the will and money to provide either humanitarian or medical aid. Above all, there is no politician who would want to shape and determine the country’s foreign policy, Safarikova writes.

The post of Czech ambassador to Moldova, a country that forms a “tectonic belt” together with Ukraine and Georgia, a thorough approach to which and quick information from which are in Prague’s vital interest, is to be filled with a diplomat who is less competent than his rival candidate. Once again, this happens on the initiative of one of Zaoralek’s deputy ministers, Safarikova writes.

The process of filling the post of Czech ambassador to Ukraine has been unfortunate as well. True, in this case, Zaoralek’s very strong counter-players are Zeman and his chief foreign political aide Hynek Kmonicek, who have their own idea of who the ambassador should be. However, their choice has been known for about a year, while the government coalition still fails to agree on a candidate who would represent Zaoralek’s positions in Kiev, Safarikova writes.

A disappearance of foreign policy is always unfortunate as it makes the respective country uninteresting for allies. In the Czech case, it unfortunately coincided with last year’s period so important for diplomacy. This is unfortunate for Zaoralek, whose beginnings as foreign minister were so promising, Safarikova concludes.

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