“The Czech Republic will need the support of African countries,” pointed out former foreign minister Tomáš Petříček (SOCDEM). “Czech diplomacy should imagine a new strategy for communication with the states of the so-called global south. “Nigeria has a significant influence on the UN vote,” he says.
Former foreign minister and diplomat Cyril Svoboda (KDU-ČSL) also agrees with this. “Everything needs to be done to repair relations. Canceling the Prime Minister’s visit to the country’s borders is a completely unusual step. Efforts must be made in the neighboring states to resolve it and the visit can be realized at some other time,” he commented.
In the competition for the position of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Czech Republic will face competition. “We need the support of most states. Of course, those who will compete with us will point out that they would never behave like us,” says Svoboda.
“It just happens sometimes.” Lipavský would not connect the cancellation of Fiala’s trip to Nigeria with support for Israel
Nigeria clearly perceives the cancellation of Fiala’s visit as a reaction to the activist politics of the Minister of Defense Jana Černochová (ODS), who marched at a pro-Israel demonstration wrapped in the flag of Israel or called to leave the UN because of a resolution that she did not think was sufficiently pro-Israel. “No other foreign minister does that,” pointed out Svoboda.
Petříček also agrees with this. “It is right that we indicate who is the aggressor and that Israel has the right to defend itself. But some specific speeches of ministers do not serve Czech interests. Unfortunately, our politics sometimes tend to take place on social media. We forget that our foreign partners are also watching it. It has some consequences,” warned the former foreign minister.
We want oil from Nigeria, businessmen also have interests
According to the president of the Trade and Tourism Association Tomáš Prouza, the Prime Minister’s canceled visit to Nigeria will not have an impact on Czech businessmen. “Nigeria is a complicated country, but it is not a Chinese state dirigisme where the government tells companies who they can and cannot work with. There, they know how to separate the business and political levels,” he told Právu.
He himself was said to have been surprised in the past by how many Czech entrepreneurs are successful in Africa. For the Czech Republic, it is a closer market than, for example, Latin America. He therefore believes that even politicians should pay more attention to Czech-African and Czech-Nigerian relations. According to him, the Czech state is failing in development aid in the long term. “Even comparably rich countries like us do much more than the Czech Republic,” noted Prouza.
The Czech Republic received a diplomatic slap from Nigeria
Svoboda sees oil as the main Czech interest in Nigeria. “The supply of gas and oil from Russia has stopped and we are looking for alternative sources. We have two canceled visits at short notice: Mr. Síkela in Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister in Nigeria. Czech foreign policy must think about that,” he says.
Benešík: The Ministry did not evaluate it correctly
Politicians agree that the main motive for the cancellation is the attitude of the Czech Republic towards Israel. According to Petříček, the fact that the Ministry of Finance did not approve the request of Czech diplomacy for projects in Africa for the years 2023 to 2025 and gave a net zero shows what “priority” we give to African countries. However, according to MP Ondřej Benešík (KDU-ČSL), it did not play a big role.
“The fact that such an important visit is canceled at the last minute does not testify to the quality and foresight of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If it happened in a matter of days or weeks, then it can be understood. Such a visit is being prepared for a long time. But cancel it the day before? There must have been some communication noises,” he says.
The only one who does not see the cancellation of the visit to Nigeria as a significant matter is the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Marek Ženíšek (TOP 09). “This just happens sometimes. I remember President Zeman’s trip to Mexico that we canceled a few days before,” he wrote to Právu.
Nigeria canceled Fiala’s visit at the last minute
He says he has no idea what was the reason for Nigeria. “But I think that those who, based on what little they know, write about how it was a slap in the face for supporting Israel, actually wish that,” he wrote to Pravu.
“If that was the main reason, then it’s a shame. Mr. Prime Minister would certainly be able to explain to the other side that our support for Israel is not anti-Muslim, anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian,” he added.
However, according to Svoboda, it is, on the contrary, an important matter. “It’s unprecedented. I don’t remember a trip of the Prime Minister being canceled like this in the history of the Czech Republic,” he noted.