Prague, Czech Republic – In an interview with local outlet Blesk.cz, Czech President Milos Zeman confirmed he will attend the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in May, but announced that he won’t be going to China for an international conference the month before.
Zeman cancels trip to China for international 17+1 conference
Talking to Czech reporters, Milos Zeman said he won’t be attending the 17+1 summit in China in April – the international platform meant to bolster cooperation between Beijing and Central and Eastern European states – due to the lack of Chinese investments in the Czech Republic.
“I do not think that the Chinese side has done what it promised. I’m talking about investments”, he said in a rare snub to China, adding that sending a high-ranking politician other than himself should be seen as “a signal” sent to their Chinese counterparts.
He added he would ask deputy-Prime Minister Jan Hamacek (CSSD) to represent the Czech Republic at the international summit.
A long-time fierce advocate of deepening ties with China, the Czech President has spearheaded efforts to forge close relations with Beijing since his election in 2013 – a controversial move some analysts and critics have seen as an attempt to use his influence to establish a “parallel diplomacy” separate from the government’s and mainly benefiting well-connected oligarchs and businessmen.
But Czech-Chinese bilateral relations have deteriorated over the past few months, fueled by disappointments, on the Czech side, regarding China’s unkept economic promises and opaque influence strategies, as well as a growing feud between the Chinese government and the mayor of Prague Zdenek Hrib, a vocal critic of China and supporter of Taiwan and Tibet.
Czech President to attend Victory Day celebrations in Moscow
In the same interview, the Czech President confirmed he would be attending Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on May 9 to mark the end of World War II.
Last month, Milos Zeman, widely known for his pro-Russian views, had threatened to pull out of the event after Moscow criticized the Czech Republic for establishing a national remembrance day in honour of the victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. “Some time ago, I accepted President Putin’s invitation to the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory, and now I’m considering whether to go at all”, he had declared after slamming Moscow’s “insolence”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin later struck a conciliatory tone, saying he would like his Czech counterpart to come to Moscow in May and that his presence would symbolize “friendship and mutual respect between the two nations”.
Main photo credit: Blesk