Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

Czechs' new moniker slow to catch on

  • Tourists in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. President Zeman thinks that name is too 'cold' (Photo: Peter Teffer)

When Czech singer Gabriela Guncikova and her team heard that they had made it to the second and final round of the Eurovision song contest in Stockholm, they appeared as jubilant on the screen as any of the other 10 finalists determined on Tuesday (10 May).

With a sense of drama typical of the competition, the Swedish hosts announced the central European nation's team was allowed to return for Saturday's final round.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • This Irish pub in central Prague could have been more economical with its space if it had used 'Czechia' (Photo: Peter Teffer)

“The eighth finalist is … Czech Republic!”

At that moment Czech president Milos Zeman, if he was watching, may have cringed a bit, but not because he is opposed to Czech musical success.

Zeman wants people to say “Czechia” in English because it “sounds nicer and it’s shorter than the cold Czech Republic”.

Last week, the Czech government approved the decision to submit the shorter name to two official UN databases.

“The country’s official political name “Ceska republika” will remain unchanged,” the foreign ministry said in a statement published after the final decision was made on 6 May.

But the government wants to have foreign translations of the short version of the country's name - Cesko - acknowledged in the UN records.

That also includes Tchequie in French, Chequia in Spanish, and Чехия in Russian.

The foreign ministry statement underlined that both versions will be allowed.

“It is up to each speaker or writer to decide whether to use the long form (“Ceska republika”/”Czech Republic”) or the short one (“Cesko”/”Czechia”),” it said.

“However, it is recommended to opt for the short form in situations where formal country names are not necessary (sports events, marketing, etc.).”

In Brussels, the name Czech Republic is not being buried yet.

"For the time being, the general secretariat of the Council has not received any request from the Czech authorities to replace ‘Czech Republic’ by ‘Czechia’,” said a spokesperson for the Council, where member states meet.

At the opening of a space conference in Prague on Monday, prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka stayed formal in his speech - his interpreter spoke of the Czech Republic. But the next speaker, European Space Agency's director-general Johann-Dietrich Woerner used Czechia.

As of Thursday afternoon (12 May), the UN terminology database still listed “Czech Republic (the)” as the short version of the country's name. The next scheduled update of the database will be on 1 July.

In central Prague, tourist shops have not yet reacted to the news. While most of the T-shirts and mugs sport the word “Prague”, it is not uncommon to see “Czech Republic” printed on souvenir items. The adjective “Czech” is also used.

An employee of a Prague tourism office, who was not allowed to be quoted by name, said she was against it.

“The name Czech Republic is quite new. If you change it now, people will have to get used to another name again,” she said, adding that some tourists still say Czechoslovakia.

What are now the Czech Republic and Slovakia was one country for most of the 20th century, after Czechoslovakia gained independence from the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918.

The name Czechoslovakia was also a shorter version of Czechoslovak Republic and later the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

When the federation was dissolved on 1 January 1993, the Czechs adopted the two-worded name.

But Czechia has not yet been embraced by Czechs.

In an online poll among 1,578 Czechs, 85.4 percent said they opposed the change.

An online petition opposing Czechia and asking for a referendum to decide on the future name was also signed by 2,846 Czechs in the past month. But few new ones have been added in recent weeks.

Jitka Paskova, from another tourist office in Prague, said she had never heard an English-speaking tourist say the word Czechia.

Her branch tries to persuade Prague visitors to also explore the rest of the country. It has brochures that advertise the “Czech Republic - Land of Stories”.

“There is not going to be a change,” said Paskova.

She told this website she would continue saying Czech Republic, even if that means she needs a bit more time to finish her conversation with tourists.

Paskova said the change should not have been imposed top-down.

She suspected that the move, announced last month, was meant to distract from an incident involving a visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

During Xi's visit, Czech police cracked down on protesters handing out Tibetan and Taiwanese flags, prompting criticism from rights activists. Two weeks after the visit, the government's Czechia plan was announced.

“Suddenly everyone stopped talking about the Chinese news,” she said.

Regional development minister, Karla Slechtova, was the only one to vote against the move. She had said that the name sounds too much like Chechnya and that there should have been a public debate first.

"Citizens learnt about it just as me from the media," she said.

But Slechtova's ministry has ceded to the expectations of her colleagues.

In its articles promoting the country, the official website CzechTourism.com has already started using the word Czechia.

Chinese hangover in Prague

President Zeman says closer ties with China will finally free the Czechs from EU and US pressure. His allies and opponents are united in scepticism.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us