Meeting with the members of the Diplomatic Corps
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Prague Castle for the second time this year! Since our last meeting in April, shortly after my inauguration, several of you have been newly appointed. I would like to, once again, wish you all a smooth start of your mission and a successful representation of your country. I am sure that your proactive approach will be reflected in the further development of our mutual relations.
Back in April, I spoke about the irreplaceable role of diplomacy in today’s complex environment. Since then, we have witnessed many worrying events around the world. This clearly demonstrates the importance and need for open communication as a tool to prevent further escalation.
Of course, keeping channels open is not a sufficient condition. We must also show goodwill and listen to the standpoints and concerns of others. With empathy and respect. Without prejudice and judgement.
This applies not only to governments and nations, but more and more also to people within a single society. Social media have created enormous opportunities for the dissemination of news, comments and suggestions, but often, unfortunately, deliberate lies. Governments and their representatives are too often in a position of reaction; we ourselves are only just learning to use this tool to communicate meaningfully with our own citizens.
I must admit that I admire the level and frequency of communication with our citizens of many of you. Diplomacy cannot remain in its own 19th-century stereotype. It is an important tool to help our citizens navigate the complex world around us.
Unfortunately, the current ongoing conflicts cannot be resolved simply by listening to both sides and drawing a line in the middle. In Ukraine, we are witnessing gross violations of international law and daily indiscriminate attacks of innocent people by Russia.
This week, I had the honour of welcoming the participants of the parliamentary summit of the International Crimea Platform. Czechia remains true to our common commitment to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. As I have said on several occasions, if we let Ukraine fail, we fail too!
It may sometimes seem difficult to explain that Ukraine is not only fighting for its own survival, but also for our values. This is not a cliché! Especially in the light of war fatigue and the constant disinformation campaign. It is therefore essential to keep repeating this message and recall our own historical experience.
At the same time, a new wave of violence has erupted in the Middle East. Its consequences are horrific and beyond comprehension. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, injured, kidnapped or displaced. Broken lives that we tend to forget when we speak in numbers.
Terrorism has no place in our society. There is absolutely no justification for Hamas’ horrific acts. Ultimately, terrorists will pay for their atrocities. Wherever they are.
Despite the grim reality, I still believe in diplomatic skills and in professionals who have dedicated their lives in making our world a better place. Diplomacy played a key role in the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and, in a sense, also in 1993. Our goal today should be to repeat this experience and use diplomacy as a tool to shape our future.
A future that will protect and improve lives of underprivileged people by creating better opportunities. A future based on respect and cooperation. A future where democratic societies are more resilient to disinformation, lies and other threats.
These words may sound idealistic and far from today’s reality. But the shape of our future is in our hands and you, ambassadors of your countries, have great power to make a difference!
Czechia may seem small to change the world on its own, but it is big enough to do its part in areas where we have strong knowledge and historical experience.
To ensure Czechia remains a strong and credible international partner, I have identified three necessary conditions:
First, a consistent, value-based foreign policy. I am pleased that we have agreed, together with other senior constitutional officials, to regularly exchange views to coordinate our common direction.
Second, to maintain and increase the trust of our people. This is a long-term task that will require constant dialogue with our citizens. A dialogue in which we will not only honestly explain the reasons for our actions, but also listen with an open mind, especially to those who feel excluded from our society.
Third, it is important to talk to each other. To meet leaders from countries where our differences may be bigger. To keep the channels of communication open, to always try to find a common ground. To share experiences and standpoints rather than provide lecturing.
Your excellencies, tomorrow you will hear more about my view on the connection between our past, presence and future.
My aim is to give Czech – and maybe not only Czech - people back their hope and self-esteem. This is of course not a matter of one speech, but rather a long-term vision which goes beyond my mandate. However, I would like to do my utmost to begin the search for our new vision and identity. And working with the countries you represent will be an integral part of that story.
I sincerely look forward to having the opportunity to deepen relations between the Czech Republic and your countries in the months and years ahead.
Petr Pavel, President of the Czech Republic, Prague castle, 27th October 2023