18th Mar 2019

Prague courts Obama for April visit

  • The Czechs would like Barack Obama to send a signal to smaller EU countries from Russia's former sphere of influence (Photo: The Israel Project)

With less than two months to go until the new US president's first visit to Europe, Czech officials are pushing for an EU-US meeting to be held in Prague.

"It's our impression that the new administration doesn't just care about the fat cats - Germany, France and Britain - but they care about the small countries, too," Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, told the International Herald Tribune newspaper.

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"It's important that the United States also do this in a country that 20 years ago belonged to the Soviet pact," he added. Mr Schwarzenberg noted that an Obama visit to Prague would be an important message to Moscow, which continues to view the Czech Republic and Poland as part of an "eastern zone."

During his trip to Europe, Mr Obama will first go to London on 2 April, where he will attend the Group of 20 large industrialized countries (G20) meeting scheduled to discuss overhauling the global financial system.

On 3 to 4 April, he will be in Strasbourg (France) and two towns in Germany - Kehl and Baden-Baden - for a NATO summit marking the alliance's 60th anniversary and France's full re-integration into its military structures.

With UK, France and Germany ticked off, the Czechs are hoping that Mr Obama will also head to their country for an informal top-level meeting with EU leaders.

After cheering Mr Obama's November victory, European leaders soon found out that the new administration in Washington had other priorities than the old continent. In his first hours in office, Mr Obama telephoned Middle Eastern leaders, breaking the tradition of calling Europe first.

It was only three days later that the US president picked up the phone to London, Paris, Berlin and Moscow.

Mr Obama's foreign policy choices are also reflected in his secretary of state's visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China this week, again, ahead of the traditional European visit.

US vice-president Joseph Biden, however, did visit Europe on 7 and 8 February, to take part in the annual Munich security conference, where he met German chancellor Merkel, French president Sarkozy and EU commission president Barroso. Mr Schwarzenberg was also present.

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