According to Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský (Pirates), the goal of the Czech presidency of the European Union is to make Europe more resistant to Russian influence. At the same time, he adds that China should not be underestimated either.
He is therefore satisfied that at the just ended NATO summit China managed to get into the strategic document. “Within the debate about China, the Czech Republic is among the more cautious and we warn more about the risks associated with China’s rise to power. It’s only a matter of time before we hear much more about China,” says Lipavský in an interview for Seznam Zprávy.
At the same time, according to him, it is important that NATO tries to convince China that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a risk for it as well.
The Czechia has been presiding over the European Union since Friday. What will you consider the success of the six-month presidency?
I would very much like for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to leave the presidency in such a way that Europe and our partners in the neighborhood will be more resistant to the influence of Russia and China. I want us to be able to say at the end of the presidency that we have done the maximum possible for Ukraine, whether in terms of stopping the war, humanitarian aid, or helping with their European aspirations. As for European aspirations, the same applies to Moldova and Georgia.
We are doing the interview on the way from the NATO summit in Madrid. What are you leaving with?
It has been confirmed that the alliance is able to come to an agreement and that it will agree on what the risks of today’s world are, namely that we are threatened by Russia. In the strategic concept, however, there are also risks associated with the rise of China.
Do you consider that a success?
I am satisfied with that, after all, it was our effort in the negotiations to have the Chinese theme reflected there. As part of the debates, the Czech Republic is among the more cautious and we warn more about the risks associated with China’s rise to power. For me, it is also a personal topic to some extent, I spent four years in the Chamber of Deputies dealing with it.
Today’s situation, when the Russian war is going on a few hundred kilometers from the Czech Republic, obviously overpowers that. At the same time, China is very closed in on itself, they are dealing with covid a lot, they have a strict lockdown policy. But it’s only a matter of time before we hear much more about China.
President Miloš Zeman has long been pushing the policy that the Czechia is a friend of China. Didn’t some of your European colleagues dig into you for that?
I have not experienced anything like this during the six months that I have been representing the Czech Republic abroad. This is a matter that has been explained for a long time. And regarding Ukraine, the president has now expressed a fairly clear opinion, which is in line with the rest of the Western community.
You say that China is closed in on itself. Not long ago, however, she attended the BRICS meeting. This is perceived as showing us a bit of muscle together with Russia…
Of course, China is not isolating itself completely. This meeting was significant precisely because they were dealing with Russia. It is a big challenge for the North Atlantic Alliance to be able to explain why Russian aggression against Ukraine is a threat to them as well and why they should also be more cautious towards Russia.
How did you feel at the summit about how our partners perceive us?
So, as of Friday, we are the leaders of the European Union. This means that our informal role within Europe and in terms of Czech foreign policy has significantly strengthened for the coming six months. I feel considerable interest from a number of colleagues who come to see me in Prague.
The Czechia is a new candidate for the presidency of the UN Human Rights Council for 2023. How important is this position?
The Czech Republic has a long-term reputation, indeed for decades, of a country that places greater emphasis on human rights in foreign policy. If we succeed in the presidency of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Václav Bálek, who is based in Geneva, would preside. In this way, we will have the opportunity to influence the agenda, whether it is Ukraine, the situation in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, or Sudan. It can also play a relatively interesting role in relation to our support for Israel, for example. We have to work on it, nothing is certain, but we have the ambition.
This time, the presidency is to be chosen from Eastern European countries. Do we have better chances than, for example, the Poles, whose position is problematic, for example, because of their anti-abortion policy?
It probably cannot be applied to specific events in individual countries. We have to exert diplomatic forces and gain the support of European states.
Staying with human rights in Europe, what issue should we prioritize if we succeed in our bid?
This is clearly the state of human rights in Russia and Belarus. How they treat the opposition and the independent media there. The Czech Republic is itself very active in this, we provide help to these people. It is necessary to talk about it on the international stage as well.
And isn’t the UN Council somewhat toothless in this regard?
It is still a UN body. This means that no more can be expected from him than what the organization can inherently provide. On the other hand, it is true that in some cases the UN is able to give a good name to the problems and that is quite often the first step to change something further.