The White House press department has confirmed that the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on March 7th. It will be the first visit by a Czech head of government in eight years.
The invitation to the White House has ended months of speculation in the Czech Republic regarding the possibility of a meeting between President Trump and the Czech president or prime minister. In an interview for Czech Radio, the Czech ambassador to the United States, Hynek Kmoníček, confirmed that negotiations on setting up a top-level meeting had been taking place for some time.
“Arranging the meeting has been a fairly lengthy process. If you consider the fact that it has been six years since the last visit by a Czech foreign minister to the White House and eight years since the last visit by a Czech prime minister, then I think the time was ripe for talks. And in the last year and a half we have been working hard to re-activate bilateral relations. “
The effort appears to have been successful. The invitation to the Czech prime minister coincided with a visit to Washington by Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, who is meeting with the U.S. secretaries of state and defence, and President Trump’s national security advisor.
Amid speculation in the Czech Republic as to what spurred the invitation Ambassador Kmoníček had this to say:
“What helped us most is that the Czech Republic is seen as a reliable, predictable partner in Central Europe, and is moreover economically very successful. Our investments in the US are bigger than ever before, in the past two or three years Czech investors have created 7,000 jobs in the US. I think the US feels the pressure of growing economic competition which both the US and Europe is exposed to. And, not least, I think Washington perceives us to be a reliable partner, from the decision on the extradition of [suspected Russian hacker ] Yevgeniy Nikulin to the present- day.”
According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders the bilateral talks should focus on “how best to advance relations” between the two countries as well as issues including cybersecurity, energy security and trade. Ambassador Kmoníček said he expected pragmatic, open talks.
“I expect it will be a very pragmatic meeting revolving around security cooperation and ways of expanding business and trade, but I think less pleasant topics will also be on the table- such as the fact we are strongly opposed to tariffs and a trade war between Europe and the US.”
The Czech media have also noted that the top-level Czech –US talks will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that toppled four decades of communism in the country and the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s membership in NATO.