Normative aspect: C
Final mark: C+
Although the Czech Republic continues to profile itself as one of Ukraine’s champions on the international stage and, in no way diverges in its position from the line agreed on the European front, the evidential force underpinning this official narrative is slowly crumbling. While Prague Castle, the Communist Party, and other political players have had a hand in this, the main reason is the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister lack the incentive to counter these demagogic sorties. There has been no clear signal lending credence to the declared support for Ukraine. No matter how proper and correct Czech-Ukrainian relations are, and despite the fact that cooperation continues to develop in numerous sectoral areas, the meritorious day-to-day work of the bureaucratic apparatus cannot outweigh the fact that the Czech Republic’s highest political echelons lack the will to forge closer relations. Furthermore, by encouraging economic migration from Ukraine, the Czech Republic has been instrumentally exploiting Ukrainians in matters related to the refugee crisis in order to pass the buck.
As the war continued in the East of Ukraine, Czech-Ukrainian relations followed much the same course as in previous years. Although Ukraine is still one of the Czech Republic’s declared foreign-policy priorities, general interest in what is happening there has gradually diminished. There was no revival of ailing political dialogue or confirmation of the Czech position at the highest level.
Russian military engagement in Donbass and support for the Ukrainian reform process remained top items on the common agenda in 2016. On the floor of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations, and other international forums, the Czech Republic pleaded for Ukrainian territorial integrity and insisted on adherence to the Minsk agreements. In public, however, this voice was drowned out by numerous unseemly statements and baffling gestures. The official line was outwardly discredited by events such as the January trip to separatist-controlled Donetsk by Communist MPs, the involvement of Czech legislators in an observation mission during elections in the self-proclaimed republics, and impassivity when a “consulate” of the Donetsk People’s Republic was opened in Ostrava. By repeatedly questioning the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia and portraying Ukraine as a failed state, President Miloš Zeman was not conducive to the Czech credibility in Ukraine and on the international stage either.
A specific issue in mutual relations is support for the economic migration of Ukrainians. Against the background of the ongoing war, Czech actions could be characterised as egoistic and self-centred. What is more, this matter has been accompanied by inappropriate prejudices – not only against Ukrainians, but in connection with the migration crisis also against refugees from the Middle East. In context of the Visegrad Group’s dismissive approach to EU migration policy, the otherwise commendable initiative to create a European programme to assist internally displaced Ukrainians outwardly came across as instrumental and passing the buck.
The Czech Republic was once again active in transformation and development cooperation. The Czech Republic tends to focus on education in its projects, with the embassy in Kiev coordinating donors in this sector. The MEDEVAC humanitarian medical programme continued. In a new move, the training of Ukrainian police anti-conflict team specialists was launched police. The Minister of Culture, Daniel Herman, also entered into an interdepartmental cooperation agreement during his trip to Ukraine. As part of a project in support of economic diplomacy, interested companies from both countries discussed opportunities for scientific and technological cooperation in the aviation industry. Despite this progress in isolated sectoral areas, Czech-Ukrainian relations have long lacked mutual communication and any substantial confirmation of interest in cooperation on strategic matters.