Cyril Svoboda - the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs

28-10-2002

Cyril Svoboda, who is the leader of the Christian Democrats, was appointed Czech foreign minister after elections to the Chamber of Deputies in June. The director of Radio Prague, Miroslav Krupicka, recently interviewed Mr Svoboda; with world opinion mixed to say the least on a possible United States-led attack on Iraq, Mr Krupicka asked the Foreign Minister whether the Czech Republic would support such an attack.

It is obvious to everybody that Iraq is to fulfil all the commitments which are incorporated in the security council resolutions. We are partners, we are a NATO member state so we will be partners to the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, etc. But first of all, we are totally behind the UN activity. To put pressure on Iraq to be ready to fulfil all the commitments, this is the first step. If there is any military operation of course we will discuss it and I am stressing that we are a NATO member state and that we are partners with the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, etc.

About the priorities of the Czech foreign policy. Would you say there are any difference between the priorities of previous government and the current government?

Of course, foreign policy is a specific field. I am deeply convinced that it is not a better field. There are areas for conflict between the coalition partners or between the opposition and the coalition. The continuity of foreign policy is something which is very important for the Czech Republic. We want to join the EU, we also want to be full-fledged members of the coalition. As a NATO member states we are going to have excellent relations with our neighboring countries. But, there is a slight difference if I compare my priorities and the priorities of the former government. It is the relations with the neighboring countries, especially I would like to express the good relations we have with Austria, Germany. Temelin, this is the test of our capacity to be partners and I am still stressing that we have signed the Brussels treaty and we are ready to fulfil all the commitments which are in the treaty and the security questions for us still very very important. Now I think that Temelin is not the important issue. Of course, the environmental questions are relevant for the Czech Republic, for the Czech cabinet, and even for my party because the ministry of environment because the minister of the environment is Mr. Ambrozek is also a Christian democrat so we will be active in that field.

Its interesting at this point that you are members of the popular party and you are partners in the government coalition in the Czech Republic and the Austria popular party is also a leading member of the current government, do you think that this is an advantage that you can perhaps communicate in a better way with the whole of the Austrian establishment, that you have maybe have special relations with the Austrian popular party?

Of course we are friends with the Austrian peoples party, my party and the Austrian peoples party. We belong to the same family of European Peoples Parties, Helmut Kohl is our father, we are a very united family yes. But, when I am minister of foreign affairs I am here to defend the state and national interests of the Czech Republic. So it is a little bit different position, when I am in the office I am here to represent the foreign policy which is Czech Republic foreign policy, it is not the foreign policy of any individual political party.

The Czech Republic joined the Francophonie about three years ago. Does the Czech Republic want to be now under your leadership, does it want to be active in Francophonie and would you consider joining Francophonie as a full member in the future?

Yes, there are maybe three reasons for being active. First, Francophonie is the family of interesting and important countries. The second reason is that we are trying to have good relations with all the people who speak French. And the third one is that it is very good if we have especially France behind us if we want to succeed in some discussions or negotiations so it is also a good reason for having good relations with our French colleagues. So there are good reasons for doing it and I believe that we will be active. So the problem is with the capacity of the Czechs to speak foreign languages of course.

I understand that you also speak some French, is that true?

Yes, I am trying. It is obvious to me when I am in Strasbourg or when I am in Brussels that everyone is capable of speaking fluent French or English and even I have one story. I met Kofi Annan in 1997 in the lift at the UN building. And the Czech ambassador to the UN told me that this is Mr. Kofi Annan and Mr. Kofi Annan would be the new Sectary General. And Kofi Annan answered, humm I am afraid it will be extremely difficult because I am not excellent in my French. But when he was offered a chance to be Sectary General he profoundly improved his French. This motivation for anybody.

I also have to ask about the question of the Benes decrees. Three legal experts say now that there is no obstacle in joining the European Union. But there is this amnesty law from 1946 and there is a slight problem with it, they say it contradicts human rights and they suggest the Czech Republic should somehow distance itself from that law. What will you be proposing to the government? Will you initiate a debate within the Czech government to do something in this respect?

My intention is to maybe initiate some comments in the regular report, the commission report on the Czech Republic. Or, maybe decide on some comments at the Copenhagen summit, something like that. It is up to the Czech government to decide. If, when, and what. What it totally unacceptable for us is to be forced to do something under pressure. So this is the reason why there is no motivation for us to comment on anything from the past. So the problem is that the legal assessment on the presidential decrees, all the three say that there is no legal conflict, that we are capable of keeping all the legal criteria in this respect. So this is also very important with us because there is no need to change the law. So this the legal basis and the legal position. But even from the political point of view there is no need to negotiate the questions you have raised with anybody.

28-10-2002