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Social Democrat ministers not to accompany Zeman to China

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Prague, May 9 (CTK) – Social Democrat Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek and Health Minister Miloslav Ludvik (Social Democrats, CSSD) told the Presidential Office yesterday that they would not go to the forthcoming trip to China along with President Zeman due to the ongoing government crisis.

On the other hand, Industry and Trade Minister Jiri Havlicek (CSSD) and two ministers for ANO will leave for China as planned.

The trip is scheduled to take place between May 11 and 18.

The delegation was to include Zaoralek, Chovanec, Ludvik, Havlicek, Transport Minister Dan Tok and Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova (both ANO).

Reacting to the news, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said it was extremely sad if political intrigues were given preference to the Czech Republic’s interests.

Zaoralek said he would be in the Social Democrat negotiating team.

“I am not going to China over the internal political situation. As a member of the CSSD board, I will take part of the negotiating team. I am sending a letter with the explanation to the Presidential Office,” Zaoralek said, adding that Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Tlapa would leave instead of him.

The tension between the Social Democrats and Zeman has come to a head due to a government crisis.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) insists on the dismissal of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) due to his dubious financial transactions and suspected tax evasion.

Zeman has refused to sack Babis, although Sobotka sent a proposal that Babis be sacked with the validity as of today to him last week.

“Given the current political situation, I cannot take part in the trip to China. I notified the Presidential Office to this effect today,” Chovanec said.

Ludvik said at first he was considering whether to leave. Later he tweeted that for working and domestic reasons he would not do so.

After consulting Sobotka, Havlicek did not cancel his participation in the trip.

The ministers for ANO are about to be in the delegation.

“I will not deal with any government crisis there. I have some important talks there,” Tok told journalists.

Slechtova, too, will not change her programme, her spokesman Veronika Varosi has told journalists.

“The ministers do not give a damn to the trip. The CSSD is not interested in the investments worth billions in China or new jobs. The party prefers intrigues,” Ovcacek tweeted.

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