Czech President Zeman’s growing clout over the country’s foreign policy?

According to media reports Livia Klausova will become the Czech Ambassador to Slovakia after all. But how important is the Czech Amb. to Slovakia, anyway. Ordinary people may argue that without any real issues between Czech and Slovak Rep. it basically does not matter who is the Czech Amb. to Slovakia and vice versa. Would you agree or not, and why? Is Klausova up to this job, in your opinion? Read few comments.

David CadierFellow in International Strategy and Diplomacy, Department of International Relations. London School of Economics and Political Science

The information would of course need to be confirmed – as of now it has only been leaked to the press by a Minister speaking anonymously. But the nominations of Mrs Klausova and Mr Remek as Ambassadors to Bratislava and Moscow respectively would only confirm a trend that has been observable over the last months, namely a growing clout of the Czech President over the country’s foreign policy.

With the multiplication of intergovernmental forums, the development of new means of communication and the growing internationalization of national ministries beyond the Ministry of foreign affairs, the task of Ambassadors in modern diplomacy is above all representational. This does not mean that they are deprived of importance though, as diplomacy is a lot about sending signals. But it is not common to see personalities rewarded with a post of Ambassador for their contribution to the country’s international image or, as it seems to be the case for Mrs Klausova, for the political support given during an election to a newly electd head of state. But such nominations are usually more common for countries that have a plethora of diplomatic missions and where external funding plays a cardinal role in electoral politics – typically the US. And they tend to concern positions that are of limited importance for the country’s diplomacy.

The appointment of Mrs Klausova as Ambasador to Bratislava would, both, be of limited diplomatic consequences and raise some eyebrows. It would be of limited consequences in light of the above considerations and, most importantly, because among EU member states Brussels’ politics and interactions have taken precedent over bilateral relations. In addition, the Czech and Slovak governments interact on a regular basis in another forum, the Visegrad Group. This decision might nonetheless (and quite legitimately) raise some eyebrows. First, followers of Czech politics cannot but note the contrast between this recompense and the time of the late 1990s/early 2000s where Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus were archrivals. Second, while there are other channels than the Embassy to interact with Slovakia’s authorities, this neighbor is far from unimportant for the Czech Republic and none of the diplomatic channels should be neglected. Slovakia is the second recipient of Czech exports (after Germany) and Slovaks are the second biggest foreign community living on the Czech soil (after Ukrainians). One should not of course presuppose of Mrs Klausova’s capacities as an Ambassador, it is obviously too soon to judge. It would nonetheless be interesting to know how the Slovak authorities are interpreting this appointment. If one extrapolate further, some could even point to this nomination – or the fact that Prague was recently left without a Polish Ambassador for quite a long time – to question the intensity of the diplomatic links uniting the Visegrad countries.

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