Vaclav Havel

Czech foreign policy abandons Havel

‘Respekt’ journalist writes the foreign affairs ministry is making a radical u-turn

Prague, June 16 (ČTK) — First Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Petr Drulák (unaffiliated) has made the greatest turnaround in foreign policy in modern Czech history with his sharp criticism of the style and politics of the country’s first post-communist president, Václav Havel, writes Ondřej Kundra in the weekly Respekt out today.

One of the pillars of the foreign policy of the Czech Republic promoted by Havel was support of human rights in various nondemocratic states, such as Cuba, China and Burma. Drulák wants to change this, Kundra writes.

Drulák previously said he considered this policy a false universalism, stemming from the idea that the Czechs developed an ideal society and should enforce it on others, Kundra writes.

Drulák says he believes the Czech Republic should stop reproaching problematic regimes for their excesses, and China in particular should not be criticized for its occupation of Tibet. These statements immediately caused speculation that the country is abandoning its human rights policy, Kundra writes.

Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (Social Democrats, ČSSD) presented this position during his recent visit to China and announced a breakthrough in Czech-Chinese relations.

But Drulák is not motivated by a primitive effort to lobby for Czech entrepreneurs who are enchanted by the potential of 1 billion Chinese customers. Even his biggest critics admit he is an idealist who has developed his views in the academic world and wants to make them come true, Kundra writes.

When rejecting the Havel model, Drulák announced the concept of human rights needs to be broadened to promote human dignity, in other worlds to include environmental, social and other rights, Kundra writes.

Drulák is a determined man not afraid to present his opinions. This can be seen in a dispute over a U.S. radar base stationed on Czech soil and the Treaty of Lisbon that culminated eight years ago, Kundra writes.

Some Czech elites supported the U.S. anti-missile radar as a contribution to the defense of the West against authoritarians in the East, while the others rejected it as a symbol of the expansionism of the United States. Similarly, supporters of deeper EU integration pushed for the passage of the Treaty of Lisbon, while its opponents rejected it as a loss of Czech sovereignty, Kundra writes.

Drulák, then the director of the Institute of International Relations (IIR), presented a view different from the Foreign Affairs Ministry that supervises the IIR. He called on politicians to reach compromises that would benefit the country’s interests: The U.S. radar would reinforce ties with Washington, and the Treaty of Lisbon would move Czechs toward the European Union core, Kundra writes.

In 2012, Drulák published Politika nezájmu (Politics of disinterest). In this book, he proposed major changes in public administration, including revolutionary referenda, through which people could dismiss bad governments, and giving key posts in civil service to experts, Kundra says.

During the rule of center-right governments in 2007–13, the IIR budget was radically cut by then–Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) due to the economic crisis and also because he could see no point in the IIR’s operation and its analyses, which was undoubtedly affected by his different view of the world, Kundra writes.

As a result of the ruthless budget cuts, Drulák started to divide people around himself in two groups: his supporters and his enemies. He now considers a large part of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s personnel his enemies, or neocons, referring to their ideological closeness to former U.S. President George W. Bush and his neoconservatives, Kundra writes.

Drulák rejects nearly all that was done by the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s “neocon management,” and this is most apparent in human rights policy.

Schwarzenberg supported dissidents in problematic regimes, while Drulák wants to defend environmental and social rights. Drulák says Czech diplomats should not explain to the Chinese that they should improve work conditions in their factories and stop releasing poisons in rivers, but offer solutions and experts on these issues to the Chinese, Kundra writes.

Drulák, a proponent of social constructivism, says he believes the more critical the language that is used, the higher will be the risk and tension in the world. But history has repeatedly shown the world does not work in this way, Kundra writes.

This view of the world is close to that of Zaorálek, for whom Drulák is the closest and in fact the only collaborator at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Zaorálek offered cooperation to Drulák at the time when Schwarzenberg’s followers tried to weaken Drulák’s position in the IIR, Kundra writes.

Drulák ordered a thorough audit of foreign policy at the ministry, which is likely to be completed during the summer holidays and which should be followed by particular changes in the foreign policy, Kundra writes.

It is unclear what exactly is going to happen in relation to the United States, Europe or the Middle East. It nevertheless seems that relations with Poland are being reassessed, Kundra writes.

It is no secret at the ministry that Zaorálek does not like his Polish counterpart, Radosław Sikorski, very much and that he wants to more focus on cooperation with Austria and Germany and the socialists from these two countries, Kundra writes.

The attitude to the United States will be adjusted, too. During his recent visit to Washington, Drulák supported former NSA agent Edward Snowden, whom the United States suspects of handing over data on a secret surveillance program to Russia, in a public speech. Drulák said Snowden pointed to massive infringement of privacy, he writes.

Different opinions on Snowden certainly will not break the ties between the Czech Republic and the United States, but Drulák and Zaorálek will deepen Prague’s relations to Brussels rather than Washington in the months to come, Kundra writes.

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