Czech Republic

  • Central Europe Ready to Lead on Strengthening the Transatlantic Bond

    As Europe and the United States face off over trade, defense spending, and other high-profile disagreements, the foreign ministers of Central Europe signaled that they are ready to take the lead in repairing the vital transatlantic relationship.

    Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s conference “The United States and Central Europe: Celebrating Europe Whole and Free” on July 17, ministers from the Visegrád countries—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—celebrated the deep relationship their countries have with the United States and stressed the importance of a strong transatlantic bond.


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  • The United States is Back in Central Europe, State Department Official Says

    After years of disinterest and occasional disagreements, the United States has re-engaged with its allies in Central Europe at a time when their help is critical in confronting a revisionist Russia and a resurgent China, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, the US acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said on July 17.


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  • The United States and Central Europe: What’s Gone Right, What’s Gone Wrong, and What’s Next

    The anniversaries we mark this year represent great achievement, mixed with tragedy. 100 years of US relations with the newly-independent nations of Central Europe; eighty years from the start of the Second World War, in part the terrible consequence of US strategic withdrawal from Europe; thirty years since Central Europeans overthrew communism, which led to the end of “Yalta Europe”; twenty years since NATO’s first enlargement beyond the Iron Curtain, in which the United States played a leading role; and fifteen years since the European Union’s enlargement beyond that same line, led by Europeans and supported by the United States. 


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  • Protests in Prague: Beyond the Numbers

    The estimated 250 000 people who protested in Prague’s Letná park on June 23, the largest-ever protest in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, caught the attention of analysts across the Continent who wondered whether Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš would be forced to resign. Despite the magnitude of the protest that brought together 2 percent of the national population, little is expected to change politically, and the protest will likely remain no more than a tool to mobilize and reenergize civil society in the country.


    No immediate political change is expected, as was evident from Babiš’ combative tone on June 26,  before his government survived a no-confidence vote. The minority ruling coalition partner, the Social Democrats, decided to maintain their confidence in the Babiš government, despite strong internal tensions.


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  • Twenty Years Later, NATO Allies Remain Strong Members of the Family

    When the foreign ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary finally signed documents completing their nations’ accession to NATO it marked the beginning of a new era for the transatlantic alliance. Twenty years ago, the ceremony held in Independence, Missouri—the hometown of US President Harry S. Truman, who oversaw the creation of NATO—marked the first time former-Communist adversaries had joined the alliance of democracies.

    Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, was a junior desk officer at the US Department of State when then US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright travelled to Missouri to finalize the new enlargement. “For me, less than a year on the job, I was on a professional high,” Wilson recalled. “After watching Washington for years exude ambivalence about whether to welcome more allies into NATO, the compelling case presented by these nations’ extraordinary spokespeople won the day. The determination of Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles, and the subsequent bipartisan leadership of Robert Dole and Bill Clinton, ensured that President George H.W. Bush’s call for a ‘Europe whole and free’ would not remain just rhetoric.”


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  • Will the Kremlin’s Most Important Ally in Europe Be Reelected?

    One day remains until the second round of the Czech presidential election, and polls show a tie with 10 percent of voters undecided. The race pits the current president, Miloš Zeman, against the former chairman of the Academy of Sciences, Jiří Drahoš.

    New reports allege that there’s a hidden scheme to support pro-Russian president Zeman—at least 8 million Czech koruna has been provided by the secretive organization Friends of Miloš Zeman—in the tight race. The whole scheme is organized by Zeman’s chief adviser, who has direct Kremlin links.   

    Zeman is an anti-immigration populist who aims to win voters by supporting a referendum on the country’s continued membership in the EU and NATO, and by presenting himself as the only defender of the nation. He is well known for his vulgarity, and above all for his support of stronger ties between the Czech Republic and China and Russia. Jiří Drahoš, meanwhile, presents himself as an anti-populist candidate who intends to return dignity and a pro-Western orientation to the Prague Castle. He largely defines himself in opposition to Zeman.

    For Russia, this is an important election.

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  • Eastern Europe’s Illiberal Trends Bode Badly for Ukraine

    A recent increase in illiberal trends in a number of Eastern European countries threatens to erode support for Ukraine in the region. Just as important, it may lead to disillusionment inside Ukraine, where reformers have drawn on the region’s democracy building experience as guidance for Ukraine’s own reforms.

    Immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Eastern European countries launched profound pro-market, pro-democratic, and pro-European transformations, quickly becoming members of NATO and the European Union. These young EU members were a source of inspiration for Ukraine’s pro-European activists and reformers at a time when Ukraine was perceived as “stuck in transition”—captured in the vicious cycle of an oligarchic economic model and corrupt political decision-making. Following the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine made important progress in energy pricing, procurement, and increased public service transparency by introducing electronic declarations, but is still striving to catch up in areas like the rule of law and protection of property rights.

    But Eastern Europe may no longer serve as a model for Ukraine’s reforms: some of these countries’ own democratic institutions are now under threat.

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  • Just How Much Influence Does the Kremlin Have in Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic?

    In a handful of Central and Eastern European countries, governments and the media have been slow and ineffective in countering the Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation. The best defense? An active, engaged civil society.

    Those were some of the findings of the Kremlin Influence Index (KII), a report released in mid-May that analyzed the Russian government’s ability to affect the media environments in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Georgia.

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  • From Russia with Hate: The Kremlin’s Support for Violent Extremism in Central Europe

    In 2016, the mayor of Ásotthalom, a small Hungarian town close to the country’s southern border, celebrated the opening of Gagarin Street with an obelisk to Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin and a speech about Russia’s greatness. The mayor was László Toroczkai, an extremist politician who serves as the vice president of the far-right Jobbik party; he is known for having organized vigilante groups to beat up refugees and banned Muslims and gay people from his village.

    A high-level diplomatic guest attended the event: the leader of the Russian Consulate to Hungary. This case raises two questions. First, why did a far-right politician who had previously been proud of his anti-communism celebrate a hero of the Soviet Union? Second, why was a Russian diplomat openly legitimizing a controversial politician?

    The short answer: Moscow sees the advantage of such “friendships” and invests in them.

    When it comes to Russian efforts to incite violence, one usually thinks of the “little green men” in Crimea, or Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine. But Political Capital has conducted an extensive research project on Russian actors and hate groups in Central Europe, and has found that Moscow built up diplomatic, political, and sometimes financial ties to violent organizations in Central and Eastern Europe as well, though those activities have received much less international attention.

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  • Czech Foreign Ministry Hacked: Russia Suspected

    From Robert Muller, Reuters: Hackers have breached dozens of email accounts at the Czech Foreign Ministry in an attack resembling one against the U.S. Democratic Party
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