On March 9, Czech president-elect and previous North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Chairman Petr Pavel will acquire place of work in the Prague Castle. As only the fourth president of the republic, Pavel plays a central function in shaping presidential norms and influencing the political weather of the country. Whilst the president serves predominantly as a figurehead and overseas emissary, charismatic Czech presidents of the previous have damaged this mildew and come to be a lot more powerful than the constitutional framers envisioned. Presidents Vaclav Havel (1993–2003), Vaclav Klaus (2003–2013) and Milos Zeman (2013–2023) every single remaining lasting legacies on the political background of the Czech Republic throughout their respective 10-yr reigns.
Pavel’s mandate appears to be even a lot more consequential than past presidencies thanks to the uncharacteristically vital purpose of overseas policy in Czech politics since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Czech Republic has become a sanctuary state for Ukrainian refugees (see EDM, September 21, 2022 January 10), its strength security has been jeopardized (Kafkadesk, January 24) and its foreign policy consensus has dramatically shifted absent from both of those Russia and China. Provided that conducting foreign affairs is the main accountability of the president in the parliamentary republic, the relevance of this year’s election was not missing on the electorate. Voter turnout in the elections surpassed 70 % in the final spherical of voting, with Pavel being elected by the widest margin at any time recorded in his victory in excess of businessman and previous key minister Andrej Babis (Radio.cz, January 28).
In the course of his impending mandate, President Pavel claims to decidedly shift the Czech Republic’s international coverage stance absent from the East and back in line with Brussels—and possibly even further more to Washington. Pavel’s predecessor, Milos Zeman, concentrated his foreign coverage mission on trying to reinvigorate trade with China and Russia though restricting the perceived Czech overreliance on trade with Germany and the European Union (DW, January 31, 2018). Zeman’s Kremlin-welcoming posture grew to become untenable after the Russo-Czech diplomatic fallout next the attack by Russian operatives on Czech ammunition provides in Vrbětice, (Radio.cz, January 28, 2021). With Russia out of the image, Zeman doubled down on his mission to boost the Czech Republic’s financial ties with China as a substitute.
Even though some Chinese investments transpired underneath the Zeman presidency, they have been generally status investments, which includes the product sales of major Czech soccer club Slavia Prague and the historic brewery Lobkowicz, as nicely as a minority stake in Czech Airways. The solitary most important economic improve was an boost in Chinese travellers, but this proved to be fleeting because of to COVID-19 journey constraints imposed by Beijing. Even by Zeman’s individual admission, Chinese financial commitment guarantees ended up not fulfilled and export development to China was underwhelming (Hospodarske noviny, January 20, 2020).
Pavel’s election guarantees to align Prague Castle with the heart-right Czech Parliament, which has begrudgingly watched Zeman’s attempt to woo Beijing. In reality, the parliament has by now hinted at abandoning the “16+1” structure that was arranged by China in 2012. The forum was initially billed as China’s “gateway to Europe” by infrastructure investment decision in Central and Jap Europe, but it has been mainly underwhelming for the two sides. Noteworthy members of parliament have questioned the organization’s raison d’etre, and it would not be shocking to see the new authorities in Prague follow the direct of the Baltic states by formally slicing ties with the forum (iRozhlas, May perhaps 22, 2022). Pavel has currently demonstrated his hawkishness towards Beijing and Moscow, and he has proven unconditional assistance for the Ukrainian cause, lately creating information with the statement: “Ukraine deserves to be aspect of NATO” (Prague Morning, January 1).
Not only is Pavel’s international coverage outlook overtly opposite to Zeman’s but so is Pavel’s demeanor, which is stoic and reserved in mother nature. During his campaign, Pavel emphasised that he will carry “dignity back again to Prague Castle” (Euractiv, January 30). His predecessor Zeman offered himself as a “common man” who did not need to have to follow presidential etiquette. He grew to become most effective recognised in the West for his community displays of drunkenness, his controversial statements to overseas emissaries and for at the time aiming a model Kalashnikov rifle at journalists through a push convention (Euractiv, June 17, 2019). Additionally, in a region where it is common (primarily between the younger generations) to converse English and German, Zeman only speaks Russian (usual of the older generations from the previous Soviet bloc). Pavel, by distinction, was educated in the United Kingdom and speaks fantastic English in addition to French and Russian.
Domestic and international commentators alike body President-elect Pavel’s inauguration as a return to normalcy and a promise of additional steadiness in Prague. Commentators have even when compared Pavel to Vaclav Havel, who grew to become a sweetheart in the West for his “values-based” political method (DW, January 30). Having said that, we must look at that Havel was head of point out in the optimistic publish-communist period of the 1990s. Pavel’s coverage convictions might be influenced by Havel, but he will run in a substantially diverse geopolitical actuality. Currently, the EU exports about 10 per cent of its items to the Chinese market place and receives major financial investment from Chinese economical establishments (Ec.europa.eu, accessed March 7).
Pavel is a disruptor who delivers political possibility to EU nations with significant exposure to China. He has by now verbally promised to check out Taiwan, which no EU head of state has performed, breaching a substantial norm that China has worked hard to implement. A Chinese International Ministry spokeswoman criticized Pavel for “stepping on China’s purple line, seriously interfering in China’s domestic affairs and hurting the inner thoughts of the Chinese people” (Fmprc.gov.cn, January 30). In a further assertion, Pavel was warned of leading to “irreparable damage” to Sino-Czech bilateral relations (Taipei Moments, February 2). China is not a stranger to sending menacing diplomatic communiques, but if Pavel follows via with traveling to Taiwan, then Beijing will virtually unquestionably react with much more major steps, with the implications reaching properly outside of Sino-Czech relations.
If China’s reaction to Pavel traveling to Taiwan is anything at all like its reaction to Taipei opening a Taiwanese Consultant Business in Vilnius, then the Czech Republic and the EU additional broadly will have to reconcile their trade relations with China (Fmprc.gov.cn, November 19, 2021). China’s imposition of export, import and financial commitment bans on Lithuania was a main political event but has so significantly carried restricted financial repercussions. The Czech Republic, on the other hand, is amid the most industrialized international locations in the EU and is an integral component of the provide chain for German vehicle pieces ($12.5 billion), electronics ($18.6 billion) and equipment ($14.7 billion) (Oec.environment, accessed March 5). If China were to retaliate from German carmakers or appliance providers with Czech suppliers, then the EU would be forced to make some awkward decisions like no matter if to comply with potential secondary sanctions.