The Czech Republic: Between the EU and Russia

In his April 3 lecture, Mr. Matej Jungwirth, an intern at The Institute of World Politics, presented some of the most pressing international challenges that the Czech Republic faces today.

The tone and topics of the campaign of the recent presidential elections—the first direct presidential elections in the Czech History—were discussed, as well as the implications of the final outcome: the victory of the socialist candidate Miloš Zeman over the centrist conservative Karel Schwarzenberg, who is also current Foreign Minister.

Furthermore, Mr. Jungwirth analyzed the strained relationship that the Czech Republic has with both the EU and Russia. On one hand, the Czech Republic is in many respects an outlier within the EU; on the other hand, significant efforts are made by Russia to earn a key role in Czech energy security.

Mr. Jungwirth discussed the gas crisis of 2006 and interest of Russian state companies in the enlargement of the major Czech nuclear power plant Temelin. He pointed out that the new president wishes to pursue a pro-EU and, simultaneously, pro-Russian course. In contrast to his predecessor, the Euro-skeptic Vaclav Klaus, President Zeman allowed the EU flag to be raised above the Presidential Palace in Prague. Mr. Jungwirth also pointed out that Klaus had actually supported Zeman during his election campaign, a rather strange political bedfellow. This choice seems to be motivated by primarily personal, rather than ideological motives, testifying to the complexity of the Czech political scene.

Please click here for his power point presentation: Czech Republic Lecture by Matej Jungwirth

This lecture was part of a series on the Intermarium, organized by the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies at IWP.

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About Pawel Styrna

I am a historian with an MA in modern European history from the University of Illinois at Chicago; a Eurasia Analyst for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR) News & Analysis Section; and a researcher for the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the Institute of World Politics (IWP) in Washington, DC. I have written numerous articles on history and international affairs - focusing mostly, but not exclusively, on Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, the Intermarium, Russia) and Eurasia - and I have co-edited and contributed to an anthology on Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust entitled "Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold? Studies on the Fate of Wartime Poles and Jews" (Washington, DC: Leopolis Press, 2012).

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