Czech Political Debate on Kosovo Independence

Kosovo issue had not been for a very long time the topic of the political debate. After the state visit of the Czech president Miloš Zeman and the Serbian counterpart, Aleksander Vučić in Belgrade on 10th September 2019, it seems that Kosovo plays prim of the Czech politics once again when Zeman announced that he “does not like Kosovo at all” and called on the revoking of the recognition of Kosovo by Czech republic. Immediately this proclamation caused inner tension among the political rivals and has opened the discussion from 2008 when Kosovo declared its independence. After Zeman’s arrival in Prague, the Czech president also filed a proposal to the government to unrecognize Kosovo entity.

Additionally, Zeman has been keeping criticizing Kosovo since the 1990s and in the recent times, he has opposed Kosovo independence due to the previous Kosovar political establishment which is not democratic and is led according to him by war criminals. Zeman specifically referred to the previous Kosovar premier Ramush Haradinaj.

In addition to this, the Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš from centric ANO political party had referred to this by stating that it is necessary to discuss this topic within the inner governmental circle.

Moreover, Western Balkans has been since the 1990s one of the main priorities of Czech foreign policy, not including Kosovo, where Czech Republic was a very active actor in the past during the post-reconstruction process. Likewise, the Czech government recognized Kosovo in 2008 de jure according to international law. Additionally, based on the data from Czech Development Aid agency, Czech Republic is very active actor in the way of spreading development aid in the Western Balkan region where concretely focuses on Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. In term of development aid for Kosovo, in 2016 Czech Republic, for example, allocated 16 million Czech crowns for Pristina. Furthermore, given the Czech parliamentary political system, it is the Czech government, which is fully responsible for the foreign policy, and not its president.

On the top of that, on the one side, the social democrat minister of foreign affair Tomáš Petříček let himself be heard that Czech position is going to remain unchanged and announced that Czech Republic wants to have decorous relations with Pristina as well as with Belgrade. On the other side, the social democrat minister of interior Jan Hamáček seems to perceive the whole situation by another perspective. Hamáček particularly blurs the whole situation in the respect of accepting Kosovo into Interpol structures. Moreover, on 15th October in Chile, the countries of Interpol will be in decision process whether Kosovo should be accepted or not, and it is not any surprise that countries such as Serbia or Russia have been continually lobbying for Kosovo not being accepted. Hamáček himself had opposed to Kosovo independence in 2008 and called on closed cooperation with Belgrade.

Finally, after the final governmental meeting on 10th October, the Czech government declared that Czech positions has remained unchanged towards Pristina as it has been for 10 years and denied the president’s proposal from September. Lastly, even though that Czech position on Kosovo independence has remained stable, it seems that the political spectrum has been left divided and many members of the parliament and senate coincide that Kosovo independence as rather problematic. What’s more, the process of unrecognition is not a new concept in international politics at all. In recent years it could have been seen that for instance, Taiwan has been many times unrecognized by its allies in the favour of continental China.

Nevertheless, what consequences would the unrecognition of Kosovo mean for Czech foreign policy? However, to give some explanation it is necessary to be theorizing –  given the understanding of the nature of international relations, it is possible to come up with certain predictions. First of all, the Czech Republic would decrease its role in the Euro-Atlantic area and weakened its relations with the United States. Furthermore, it would blunt the legitimacy of Czech foreign policy in the Balkan region due to the denouncement of the bilateral agreement between Prague and Pristina. In addition to this, it would also consequently lead to question not only Czech vision but also the EU’s one, to further integrate the Western Balkan region into the European structures. Last but not least, all these steps would undoubtedly influence the Czech soft-power in the region. Nevertheless, regardless of the consequences, the unrecognition of Kosovo would surely strengthen the relations with Serbia and its allies, however, the questions are if Czech Republic would really stand for this option.

To sum up, given the complexity of the Kosovo issue, Czech Republic ought to endeavour to cultivate its relations with Kosovo. And given Czech long-term scope in the Balkans, Czech diplomacy should be the front-runner in the solution of Belgrade-Pristina relations to finally resolve the Kosovo questions.

Photo: Reuters

Author: Zdeněk Rod