Minutes from the Meeting of the Highest Constitutional Officials on Foreign Policy
The President of the Czech Republic, the Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Defence met at the Prague Castle on 22 May 2019 to discuss foreign policy issues, including the European Parliamentary elections, which will take place in the Czech Republic on 24 and 25 May 2019. The Highest Constitutional Officials (the “participants”) call upon all Czech citizens to take part in the European Parliamentary elections, not only to exercise their basic democratic right to vote, but also to show their interest in contributing to decisions about the EU and its future. The participants also focused on the following topics:
Coordination of trips and visits made by the Highest Constitutional Officials
The participants discussed the coordination of official visits to and from the Czech Republic, with an emphasis on implementing the priorities of Czech foreign policy. They also considered the possibility of linking their bilateral dimension and meetings with foreign counterparts in multilateral formats, especially the V4+, particularly in the meetings they will be hosting in the Czech Republic during its presidency of the V4.
Future of the EU, forming European institutions
The participants agreed that the future of the Czech Republic is tied to the EU and that they do not see an alternative to the Czech Republic’s EU membership. They also agreed that the coming months will be key to determining the future of the EU. In this process, the Czech Republic intends to play an active, responsible and unifying role. The success of the EU – as a project unifying Europe based on shared values and bringing peace, security, prosperity and stability – is in the Czech Republic’s interest.
The participants underscored the fundamental importance of the Strategic Agenda to be adopted by the European Council in June 2019. The Agenda will set out the strategic policy direction of the EU for the coming years. The Czech Republic will strive to ensure that this direction and its concrete implementation clearly take into account the citizens’ expectations regarding the EU, i.e., a democratic, secure and prosperous Europe that is also open to new ideas and trends, as well as strong in the international arena.
Implementation of the EU’s policy strategy will be the task of the new EU institutions, the formation of which will commence after the European parliamentary elections. This sole directly elected EU body not only acts as a forum for political debate, but also takes part in adopting EU´s decisions. Decisive political guidance and orientation at the highest level are, however, adopted by the European Council, whose role should be further strengthened in the future.
The EU’s political strategy must also be reflected in the multiannual financial framework, which will ensure funding for its implementation. In meetings on the multiannual financial framework, the Czech Republic will continue to actively promote its interests and priorities aimed at continuing the EU’s traditional policies (cohesion, agriculture), securing funds for new priorities (borders, migration, defence and security) and on enabling the use of EU funding with maximum flexibility and guided by the Czech Republic’s thematic preferences and decisions.
Regional cooperation formats
For the Czech Republic, the EU and NATO provide the values-based and institutional anchor. We actively work to strengthen both the EU and NATO and to overcome internal divisions. Based on this, the Czech Republic is pragmatically developing cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe with the aim of jointly promoting shared interests. In addition to intensive cooperation in the Visegrad Group, the Czech Republic will continue to be actively engaged in the “Slavkov Trilateral” (Czech Republic – Slovakia – Austria) and the Bucharest Format (B9) and take advantage of opportunities to cooperate with other regional partners. The participants discussed the Czech Republic’s expectations regarding the Three Seas Initiative, which involves both Germany and the USA in the regional cooperation of 12 countries. The participants view all these formats as tools for advancing the Czech Republic’s interests and helping to create a balanced Europe.
The upcoming one-year Czech presidency of the V4, which begins in July 2019, will advocate a “reasonable Europe”, while focusing on three key areas: reasonable solutions, revolutionary technologies and reconciling approaches. The ambition of the Czech Republic’s presidency is to formulate and promote V4 proposals in the EU should they be useful to the citizens of the V4 and to the whole of the EU. In close cooperation with our V4 partners, we would like to actively take part in forming new EU institutions and contribute to adopting and promoting the EU’s policy strategies. The Czech Republic intends to develop the V4+ dimension, chiefly with traditional partners.
Eastern Partnership, Balkans
The participants commemorated the EU’s Eastern Partnership, which was established in Prague on 7 May 2009 at the summit between the EU and six partner countries. They appreciated the fact that during the ten years of its existence, the Eastern Partnership confirmed its potential to bring mutual benefits to EU countries and their partners. The Eastern Partnership continues to be one of the products of the historically first Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, and the Czech Republic continues to promote it as a priority of its foreign and European policies. It is a tool for creating a greater sense of belonging to the EU based on political and socio-economic reforms, a tool controlled by the ambitions of the partners themselves. The Czech Republic recognises and supports the European ambitions of those partners that expressed them.
The participants view enlargement of the EU as the strongest means available to the EU to increase security, stability and prosperity, which is based on the free choice of the partners to fulfil the EU’s highly demanding requirements. The coming weeks will be key to confirming the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy. The participants support granting the candidate status to Albania and North Macedonia if the European Commission recommends this in its evaluation reports. They believe that such a decision by the EU Member States will be one of the necessary impulses that will provide a new and positive dynamic to the Western Balkans and confirm the credibility of the EU’s open-door policy, which has been weakened in recent years.
Czech-Chinese relations, their current status and further development
The participants assessed the meetings held with the highest Chinese representatives during the 16+1 summit in Dubrovnik on 11 and 12 April and at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on 24 – 28 April 2019. They agreed on the importance and great potential of Czech-Chinese relations and on the need for the Czech Republic to take a single and coordinated approach, which is especially important due to China being a global player. They emphasised interest in a greater volume of effective Chinese investments in the Czech economy and the need to reduce the mutual trade balance deficit, especially by removing obstacles preventing Czech exports from accessing the Chinese market. They called attention to the uncertainties arising from tensions in Chinese-American trade relations and unequivocally rejected protectionist measures from any side, as they result in a chain reaction of protective measures that harm everyone in the end. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs provided information about the EU’s discussions during preparations for the EU-China summit held on 9 April 2019, which reflected both the opportunities and challenges of EU-Chinese relations. The participants also agreed that they expect China to play a constructive role, corresponding to its international status, in resolving today’s main global challenges, something that should also be reflected in political negotiations with Chinese representatives.
New Israeli government, US peace plan, impacts on the region
The participants anticipate and fully support the continuation of intensive bilateral relations with Israel, with an emphasis on specific results, especially in the area of defence and security capabilities, cybernetics, innovation technologies and water management.
The expected peace plan by the president of the United States can, in accordance with international law, be a decisive, strategic step for Israel, Palestine, the region and the whole world.
The Czech Republic intends to continue with its contribution to regional security with the deployment of its CASA C-295M aircraft in the MFO mission in Sinai, which has been under way since November 2013. The participants support the extension of its deployment beyond 31 December 2020, i.e., an extension of the existing mandate of the Czech Armed Forces.
The participants assessed the Prague 5G Network Security Conference, welcomed the resulting recommendations (the Prague Proposals) as an important contribution to discussions about this issue and agreed that, in order to address all aspects, they would organise an expert conference attended by the security community, mobile operators and suppliers of 5G network technology.
Foreign operations of the Czech Armed Forces post 2020
The participants launched a strategic political discussion about the future participation of the Czech Armed Forces in foreign operations once the current mandate ends in 2020. The anticipated security environment and the Czech Republic’s commitment to its allies and international organisations will continue to require the deployment of Czech troops abroad in both combat and non-combat missions. The priorities under the NATO, EU and UN mandates include European defence and security, the fight against terrorism and developing the capabilities of foreign partners. The participants will revisit this discussion at their next meeting.
Along with the increase in the defence budget, the participants expect an increase in the Czech Armed Forces’ capabilities in a way that will reinforce the Czech Republic’s position as a reliable and capable ally.
Expansion of the network of diplomatic missions
The Minister of Foreign Affairs presented concrete plans to expand and optimise the network of diplomatic missions and the need for additional or sufficient resources to fund them. The participants emphasised that any streamlining or expansion of the network of diplomatic missions has to reflect the strategic priorities of the Czech Republic’s foreign policy, including an emphasis on economic diplomacy. The participants invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs to prepare a concept for the further development of the network of diplomatic missions and an assessment of the impact thereof on the state budget.
Preparations for the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2022
The participants were informed about the current status of preparations of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2022. They agreed that the Presidency provides an opportunity to influence directly and visibly the functioning of the EU. It also holds extraordinary potential for perception of the Czech Republic but only as long as the Presidency is viewed as successful. The topic of preparations for the presidency will remain a regular item on the agenda of the participants’ foreign policy meetings.
Jiří Ovčáček, Director of the Press Department and Spokesman for the President