Zdeněk Krejčí : People from small countries cannot afford the luxury of quarreling between them over basic issues. IPN interview

What was the significance of digit 8 in the historical destinies of the Czech Republic? Did the Soviet Moldovans 50 years ago liberate or occupy the Socialist Czechs?; What do the Czechs believe about the “quadrature of the circle” and why don’t they want a life “on the bridge”? Why does the Republic of Moldova remain a priority country for the Czech Republic despite the “pause” existing between Brussels and Chisinau?; How did Václav Havel manage to become the President of everyone? The interview given by His Excellence Zdeněk Krejčí, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Republic of Moldova, to Valeriu Vasilică centers on these and other useful subjects.

- Mister Ambassador, recently the Czech Republic celebrated the 100th anniversary of the formation of the modern state. How does a modem country feel in the center of Europe at the age of 100 years? We also want to know how we, the Moldovans, would feel approximately in about 70 – 75 years...

I believe we feel better than 30 years ago. This would be the answer of a small number of elderly people. As the Moldovans, we are much “older”. The 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia is an important benchmark in our political history that we used to recapitulate these 100 years that were marked by a number of digits “8”. After 1918, World War II started for us in 1938. In 1948, the power was seized by the Communists. In 1968, we witnessed the attempt to reconceive socialism and, ultimately, in 1989, the Communist era came to an end.

We surely pondered also over earlier times, the 14th century, when Prague was the capital of Middle Europe and the Czech king was the emperor of the so-called Holy Roman Empire – a rather free community of states of the region. Another important stage, of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century, was when we formed part of the Austro-Hungarian empire that was a not so bad and sufficiently developed state. These reflections are valuable for today as well for understanding to what extent we can live and develop separately, even in an isolated way, as a state, and to what extent we will further integrate into larger organizations? Even if we seem to have answers to these questions now, in 1918 we decided not to form part of the Austrian monarchy and in the 21st century decided to form part of the NATO and the European Union, but there is anytime place for reconsideration.

-During these 100 years we had a somehow common historical period: we formed part of the same Socialist camp, with Moldova being part of the former USSR. What happened exactly 50 years ago during the “Prague Spring”: we, the Soviet Moldovans, invaded you or liberated you then? What should both of the sides or even the whole world learn now from that case?

- It was no way liberation. Even the then Communist propaganda didn’t say something like this. It was a thesis used inside the Soviet Union. In our country they insinuated that our Communist Party followed a bad path that could take us to capitalism, while the Soviet occupation saved us. But they didn’t say that NATO or the Germans or someone else intended to invade our country as there was no reason for saying so.

As to the “Prague Spring”, this was an attempt to reform socialism. We wanted to build democratic socialism or, how it was called then “socialism with a human face”. Today we already know that they worked on the “quadrature of the circle”, on an illusion as it is impossible to reset the Socialist order of Soviet type. That was a very interesting period, with hopes and pronounced development in all the spheres of life, both in the economy and in the spiritual life. For example, they still speak about the Czechoslovak New Wave in cinema. We also had another illusion that appeared in 1945 – 1947, after World War II, that we will be a kind of bridge and the West and the East will meet in our country. This illusion reappeared in the 1960s, especially in 1968, during the “Prague Spring”. And we finally understood that the bridge is the place where everyone is heading for different directions and it is better to keep to a bank, but best of all to the correctly chosen bank.

Surely, we want everyone to meet in our country, we want to have good relations with all our Western and Eastern neighbors and I’m convinced that things stand like this at the current stage. But we know for sure that we want to integrate and know to what civilizational area we belong.

- The Czech deduction as regards the impossibility of reforming socialism of Soviet type was confirmed by the Soviet Union itself during the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, who completed the fall of the USSR. Some of our politicians who plead for the “liaison” role of the Republic of Moldova should probably think about another Czech deduction about the bridge between the East and the West as a form of existence and development of the state.

- Surely, I know about these discussions here, in Moldova, and do not want to tell the Moldovans where and how they should orient themselves. I only referred to the experience of the Czech Republic and I don’t think that it would be ideal for us, like a small country, to be in a gray area that does not belong to any civilization model. We want to have solid security guarantees through the membership in integrationist unions that undertook to help each other.

For us, it is important that our army should be functional in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For us, it is important that we form part of the European Union and take part in decision-making, where our voice and our influence are greater than they would be if we had worked as a solitary country. This decision was taken based on our historical experience. The Republic of Moldova has its own historical experience and the Moldovans will decide what is better for them and the orientation of their state.

- Not long ago, the Czech government announced that the Republic of Moldova is a priority state for development cooperation. Why namely Moldova?

- It is nothing new. Moldova formed part of our cooperation priorities in the previous cycle as well, from 2013 until 2017. This year the Government approved the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ and the Czech Development Agency’s proposal to keep this status of Moldova for the next period. Moldova is rather close to us as we had that common past – 40 years in the Socialist camp – and we want to offer support for Moldova to stand up and reach the European standards, the European living conditions. This is the main direction of our program.

- In particular, the Embassy of the Czech Republic has implemented a broad program of support in different areas in the Republic of Moldova during many years. Why namely these areas and not others and how do you appreciate the effects produced in time by the projects financed by the Czech Republic?

- There are two main principles based on which we choose the direction as it is clear we cannot be equally active in everything and need to specialize. Firstly, these are sectors where the Moldovans are interested in our assistance and cooperation. Secondly, these are areas where we have relevant experience and covered a similar road or explored similar circumstances to develop.

So, there is a lot we could offer. We have positive examples and also negative examples of what ways should not be followed because they are not efficient. Based on this, we chose particular cooperation and development sectors. For a period we focused on agriculture, but now the intensity is weaker as development exists in Moldova already and many donors appeared.

The environment is another sector. When we joined the European Union and later, we had to meet strict norms on water purification and consumption, decontamination, purity of the air, etc. We developed high technologies in this area and share them with Moldova. There is also the social sphere where it was clear that the old path cannot be followed, by maintaining huge hospitals, large old people’s homes, etc. New efficient systems are needed here and we help Moldova develop them. We also focus on areas of the central and local administration. These are the main spheres where we work.

- They say the relations between the Republic of Moldova and the European Union are now on hold owing to problems that seem to be interpreted differently by Brussels and Chisinau. What is the positon of the Czech Republic as an EU member in this dispute and what is the current state of the bilateral relations in this context? In what areas things stand better and where there are reservations?

- We form part of the European Union and when EU decisions on Moldova are formulated, these contain our position too. There are elements that generate enough concerns. I refer in particular to the Chisinau mayoral elections. We also follow the campaign prior to the parliamentary elections of February 2019 that already started unofficially. We will also attentively follow the elections.

We have very good bilateral relations and close cooperation. We hope we will continue this cooperation with the government that will be formed after the elections.

- Let’s admit that the Czech Republic faced, is facing and will face a series of big problems similar to those experienced by the Republic of Moldova. As an example, I would name only two of them: one is known as the “theft of the US$ 1 billion” by which the national banking system was robbed and the other one is the invalidation of the Chisinau mayoral elections. What does the Czech Republic’s experience in preventing and/or solving such problems or problems of such a scale show?

- These problems, especially those concerning large-scale economic crimes, do not have simple solutions that can be ensured by adopting one law or another. An honest and transparent system is needed and we try to enable the citizens to see what is going on in the country, how the public funds are spent and also to make sure that the courts of law work properly and obey the law. But this is a long-lasting process and we cannot say that we fully covered the distance, but we move on. We also made mistakes, but the “theft of the US$ 1 billion” is not a mistake. It is something else.

- The Czech Republic covered its part of the road to the country’s modernization by the EU’s model earlier than Moldova. What similitudes and differences do you see between our countries and what tendencies can be forecast for the Republic of Moldova for the next few years according to such an analysis?

- I would say that the movement towards the European Union or the European course in not a goal in itself. We did this not only for becoming a member of the EU. The Republic of Moldova should also not look at things this way. We worked first of all because this is good for the country and our people – when we adopt European standards, technical conditions, rules for the functioning of the state apparatus, courts of law – this is in our interest. We consider it is important for Moldova to also adopt these high standards as they improve the life of the citizens of Moldova.

- For those from the Republic of Moldova who look for solutions to the profound division, according to different criteria, of Moldovan society, to what extent did the Czech Republic experience such a problem and how did it solve it?

- As I said, the historical experience showed where our place is. Most of the citizens support the membership in NATO and the EU. But this does not mean that there is no place for discussions. Time passes and new subjects appear, like, for example, illegal migration and other related problems or the development directions of mutual integration. For us, as for the Moldovans, it is important to understand that we represent not big countries, nations and we cannot afford the luxury of quarreling between us over basic issues, of paying too much attention to secondary matters. It is important to understand that unity is needed to remain and move on in this world. There is always place for examining variants, but if a democratic majority after discussions reaches a decision, everyone should make effort to cooperate in this direction. It is not easy, but it is of vital importance for us, and for the Moldovans I think , to see not only the differences, but also the common interests and we should work with our political opponents in such situations.

- In particular, how did your famous President Vaclav Havel become the President of everyone? Is it about personal qualities or quantities of the nation?

- First of all, I must say it was happiness for us to have such a person as Vaclav Havel, who was first of all an artist, a dramatist and then a politician. Any country would need such people, but not any country has them. I think for Havel, who started his “political” activity in the 1970s – 1980s, when there was no possibility for free party politics, it was important to offer society something common that could have improved that stagnant Brezhnevist regime. The word “political” is in inverted commas because only “non-political politics” could be done then. His work “The Power of the Powerless” is one of the traces those times that remains topical. Havel understood to focus not on differences between people, but on areas of common interest. This made him one of the founders of the “Charter 77”, which followed the “Prague Spring”. He continued this approach as the President already, when he had the ambition to become the representative not of one political current, but of the whole society. This turned out to be of a special value in that period when it wasn’t clear how to ensure the country’s transition from a socialist state to a democratic state, to market capitalism. The approach played an important role and helped us advance rather swiftly, despite the serious problems we and countries similar to us faced.

- Who is Ambassador Zdeněk Krejčí outside this official post?

- The post is something passing and this is clear to me with my life experience. As a person, I’m considering the possibility of ending my service career. Fortunately, I’m fond of many things, such as history, travel, music, photographing. I write articles about the history of cartography with which I will deal in continuation. I’m glad that as a diplomat, I can perceive the essence of the country where I work and I would like to profit from this possibility to the greatest extent possible.

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