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PM, president reject reduction of embassies

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Prague, June 23 (CTK) – The representations of the Czech state abroad cannot be reduced in the contemporary world, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (both Social Democrats, CSSD), Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) and President Milos Zeman agreed yesterday.
Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek reported about the result of the meeting on foreign policy, in which Senate chairman Milan Stech (CSSD) participated as well.
On Monday, Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) said a total revision of the Czech embassies and trade representations is needed to know which are needed and which are not. In reaction, Zaoralek said he is ready to talk with Babis about the effectiveness of the embassies, but this is not the right time to reduce their number.
In a joint press release, the participants in the meeting wrote that based on an agreement with the Government Office, ministries in charge of economic affairs and representatives of entrepreneurs, the government will seek the installation of Czech diplomats specialising in economic, agricultural and scientific-technological issues in countries with growing economic opportunities.
“The extension of diplomatic missions’ capacities and the growth of their effectiveness continues to be a crucial task for the government and it will be reflected in the Czech state budget priorities,” the joint statement says.
In terms of economic diplomacy, the Czech Republic should focus on Latin America, India and Turkey, among others, Sobotka told CTK after the meeting.
“We will coordinate our top constitutional officials’ activities towards these countries in order to maximally support Czech exports and investments,” Sobotka said.
He said Zaoralek has been asked to prepare a schedule of officials’ trips abroad.
Yesterday’s meeting at Prague Castle also discussed the recent migration wave.
The officials agreed that the EU should focus its activities on the countries from where “illegal and irregular migrants” have been coming to Europe.
The Czech Republic, too, wants to intensify its efforts in providing humanitarian and development aid. However, Prague wants to “provide help based on the principle of voluntary solidarity and according to its capabilities and capacities,” the statement says.
It calls for an effective crackdown on the people smugglers who profit from the refugees’ hardship.
At the same time, illegal migration must be made unattractive. The Czech Republic supports the idea of reinforcing Frontex, the European agency that protects the EU’s external borders, and of starting an EU naval operation against people smugglers, the officials write in the press release.
Simultaneously, it is necessary to more support legal migration and improve conditions for the best possible use of its positive effects for the benefit of Europe and the Czech Republic, they write.
As far as the fight against Islamic State is concerned, the Czech Republic should keep its position as an active part of the international coalition of over 60 countries.
“The [Czech] constitutional officials consider it necessary for the Czech Republic to join the efforts to stabilise the Iraqi areas that have been liberated from IS. In Iraq, the Czech Republic may offer its assistance in the fields such as the training of [local] police, health care and the aid to those who lost their homes,” the statement says.
The fight against IS is mainly up to the Middle East countries, the Czech officials agreed.
They also discussed Zeman’s proposal that Prague send a field hospital to Jordan.
Sobotka said Zeman and Stropnicky are to meet in July to discuss technical conditions of the plan. He said Czech some officials do not back the plan because the sending of a hospital is a complex and cost-intensive logistic operation.
First, it is necessary to find out whether Jordan is interested in the arrival of a Czech hospital and whether such help would be meaningful, Zaoralek said.
According to Sobotka, other, more effective ways of medical help would be suitable.
Nevertheless, the main topic on the agenda of the meeting yesterday was the effectiveness of Czech economic diplomacy and the active promotion of the Czech economic interests abroad, according to the press release.
The economic diplomacy’s performance considerably improved in the past year, the officials stated.
They agreed that well-prepared foreign trips by high political representatives, accompanied by entrepreneurs, are an important factor in support of the Czech economic interests.
The Foreign Ministry will monitor the effect of such trips and check how the particular ministries fulfil their tasks, the statement says.
The meetings on foreign policy started in reaction to Zeman’s controversial statements about the crisis in Ukraine and other issues. Zeman repeatedly clashed with Sobotka and his government on foreign affairs.
First such meeting was held in February.

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