The Czech Republic shares an extraordinarily strong bond with the United States of America. The USA has been a key ally to the Czech Republic not only in the realm of politics, but also when it comes to security and strategy, economics, human rights, and also science and development. On the 1st of September this year, Miroslav Stašek began his work at the Czech Embassy in Washington as Czech Republic’s new ambassador. We now present to you our exclusive interview with him.
Your excellency, you served first as our ambassador in Egypt and later in India, afterwards you held the post of Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now you are preparing for the important role of being the Czech ambassador in the United States. What are your thoughts and resolutions regarding this role?
I am preparing to enter the position as Czech ambassador in Washington with a strong sense of humility. This signals the start of a new challenge in my 25 year diplomatic career. In regards to the current geopolitical situation, it is also one of Czech Republic’s most crucial diplomatic missions. Developing relations with the US as well as cooperation in the Euro-atlantic sphere are two main foreign policy goals of the current government.
In my time spent as the ambassador, I will aim to continue the work of my predecessors in striving to deepen bilateral relations with the US in all the priority cooperative fields.
Historically, Czech Republic has always had a deep connection with the United States. The USA has been a key ally to the Czech Republic not only in the realm of politics, but also when it comes to security and strategy, economics, human rights, or, for example, science and development. A powerful bond between Czech Republic and the USA has been a long term constant in Czech Republic’s foreign policy.
In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the global significance of the US grew even further. Taking into account the context of these events and the related increased interest of the US in the central European region, this has opened new avenues for mutual cooperation. In this regard, it is in Czech Republic’s best interest to focus primarily on the development of security and human rights, which deepens potential for economic cooperation, especially when it comes to trade, innovation, science and energetics, and continuing to increase the intensity of interpersonal contact.
A powerful bond between Czech Republic and the USA has been a long term constant in Czech Republic’s foreign policy.
After serving in Egypt and India, your next foreign mission is in the US. Can these workplaces of yours even be compared?
Comparing the various destinations a diplomat works at is always difficult. This is especially true in my case, as all three of these countries are very different. All in all, I can say that, from a professional perspective, my work in Egypt and India served as great preparation for what awaits me in the US.
Egypt is, and always has been, a superpower in the regions of Northern Africa and the perimeter of the Middle East. My work in Egypt was incredibly interesting and diverse, ranging from economic diplomacy to the support of our egyptologists, which have been building and maintaining a great reputation for us in the country.
India presented me with a completely different experience. India’s global economic impact is growing by the day, and in light of this, the country’s political influence follows suit. Currently, India belongs to a category of co-called emerging global superpowers. My work in India was a challenge in thriving within a highly competitive environment. If you cannot properly differentiate yourself from other diplomatic missions, and prove that your mission is truly something attractive and interesting to your target country, your proposal will likely end up lost in the saturation of the local diplomatic corps. Economic diplomacy kept us very busy in India. I personally led multiple missions of European ambassadors in the North Eastern Union states (referred to as the Seven Sisters), which were previously largely omitted by other ambassadors, or traveled to rather sporadically. These activities then helped open up a path for us not only in terms of economic cooperation, but other branches as well.
I am expecting the mission in Washington to present a brand new experience as well. The USA is currently the world’s largest superpower. The operation’s backbone will be centered around the fields of security (cooperation aimed towards Ukraine, Euro-atlantic cooperation, NATO, cyber-security, etc.), economic cooperation, including energetics, human rights, and without a doubt deepening our partnership in the development of new technologies, and finally, collaboration between our universities. I believe that I am entering the US at an opportune time, which presents circumstances that would allow us to push our bilateral relations to a yet higher level.
The USA currently has the largest Czech community outside Czech Republic itself.
A couple years ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary since the formation of Czechoslovakia, which also officially marked the beginning of our diplomatic relations with the US. How did this relationship develop over the last century?
Over the last 100 years, our mutual relationship underwent big changes. In the past, the US became the target country of four big migration waves hailing from, what was at the time, Czechoslovakia. This sizable community still plays an important role in mutual relations.
The USA currently has the largest Czech community outside Czech Republic itself (which amounts to around ⅔ of all the Czechs that live outside their home country). The influence of Czech communities and their supporters was undeniably important not only during the formation of Czechoslovakia, but also after the year 1989. This group not only included Americans with Czech roots, but also influential allies of the Czech Republic, who were knowledgeable in the Czech regional context and helped accelerate the involvement of Czech Republic in western structures (namely NATO).
Bilateral relations reached a peak in the early 90s, right after the Velvet Revolution and the election of Václav Havel as president. This was a time of great progress, during which the political and economic changes taking place in central Europe offered new opportunities in bilateral relations. It is precisely this period of mutual cooperation that we would like to follow up on.
What lies at the center of the USA’s importance as our partner?
The US is a key partner and ally to us. Their role in, for example, security cooperation is highly irreplaceable. Furthermore, even their significance in regards to Europe as a whole is ever growing. On the other hand, we also have to face many challenges, including the necessity to find a way to halt Russian aggression in Ukraine, securing energetic stability for our region and so on.
The US is also Czech Republic’s largest export market outside Europe. Last year, Czechia ended up 11th among all possible export outlets, with a total value of 5.4 billion USD (roughly 116.5 billion CZK). From 2010 to 2021, the value of Czech exports to the US more than doubled. Artificial intelligence (nano technologies, cybersecurity, ICT, electromobility and autonomous vehicles), energetics, engineering, transport infrastructure, health and pharmaceutical industries, agriculture, the food industry and the video game industry are among the economic fields that show the most promise in terms of our cooperation.
The field that I consider to hold the most potential, however, is cooperation in the sciences, research, and development of new technologies.
Do you think that there is untapped potential in Czech Republic’s cooperation with the US, whether it be in economic relations or otherwise?
I see great potential in further expansion of mutual trade exchange and investment. The field that I consider to hold the most potential, however, is cooperation in the sciences, research, and development of new technologies. Czech Republic’s economy is primarily reliant on exports. Therefore, if we want to maintain our success and competitiveness, we need to increase our investment into the development of new technologies, this includes both the civilian sector and the defense industry sector. I am convinced that cooperation with the USA in this field has immense potential.
Cooperation between the US embassy in Prague and the Ostrava City Library resulted in the successful project called American Center Ostrava. This is a cultural and language center that helps familiarize the wider public with the US. What is your assessment of similar efforts?
I believe that similar activities are very positive, as they bridge informational and cultural barriers between both countries. One of the prerequisites to our region’s success in the United States is the ability to maintain the attention of the American public, and cooperation between universities, libraries, science centers, etc. while hosting big cultural events can be of great service in this area.
Your excellency, thank you for the interview.