Czech Foreign Minister Petříček wants a foreign policy that advocates for human rights
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) said in an interview with the Czech News Agency that the Czech Republic should have a self-confident foreign policy that includes not just following economic interests, but also advocating for values like human rights. Examples from around the globe, according to the Foreign Minister, demonstrate that it is possible to clearly hold on to a values-based starting point for diplomacy while also aiding trade relations.
Petříček also said he would like to focus not just on traditional areas for human rights support, but also on Africa, where the issue is associated with migration. "I am convinced that a country like ours should have a self-confident foreign policy," he said.
"One component of such a policy is not just economic diplomacy and following our own interests, but also advocating for the values our society considers important: protecting human rights, strengthening democracy, freedom of the press," he said. According to the Foreign Minister, examples from all over the world show that it is possible for countries to support their export firms while also adhering to their own particular standpoints when it comes to values.
"Germany, the Netherlands - these are very open economies that are also export-oriented, and human rights also belong among their top priorities," the minister said. Another example, according to him, is that of the Scandinavian states.
Petříček does not believe he will risk clashing with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babišem (ANO) or with Czech President Zeman, neither of whom raise the question of human rights in their diplomacy as much as he does. "In my opinion, a self-confident foreign policy is about negotiating with our partners very openly and also seeking opportunities, on the basis of mutual respect, so that our interests can intersect, for example, in the economic situation as well," the minister said.
He wants to continue the existing programs the Czech Foreign Ministry has for activities in support of human rights, through which the country focuses especially on Burma, countries in the Caucasus, Cuba and Eastern Europe. "Nevertheless, for me this will also be a question of the opportunity to improve the state of human rights in some African countries, because I perceive that as an opportunity for our engagement on the continent to be reborn," he said.
The minister sees an association between human rights violations in some African countries and migration from Africa to Europe that involves illegal activity. "I see this as a comprehensive approach to Africa where, in addition to our development cooperation, we must also follow the situation in the area of human rights, of civil society, to support democracy and the rule of law," he said.
"Those are the steps that are able to contribute to these countries stabilizing and conflicts being prevented," he said. Fewer people, according to the minister, will want to flee their countries if human rights protections improve in them.
The Czech Republic will also be advocating for human rights during its three-year membership on the United Nations Human Rights Council, to which it was elected for 2019-2021. According to Petříček, Prague is currently not seeking to chair the council, but wants to especially express its views there on situations in countries where the upholding of human rights is problematic, such as China, Venezuela or Yemen.
The minister said he does not believe that the withdrawal of the USA from the council this year has damaged its reputation at all. "On the contrary, I believe such institutions are, at this moment, even more important because the international order, based on norms and rules, is currently under a certain amount of pressure," he said.
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