Czech Presidental Election 2018 Debate in English – Foreign Policy & International Relations
(For the English Only version – without overdubbed Czech translation – scroll to the video at the bottom of the page on the link)
Venue: American Academy in Prague
Candidates: Pavel Fischer, Marek Hilšer, Michal Horáček
Moderator: Benjamin Tallis, Institute of International Relations, Prague; Editor-in-chief, New Perspectives
Questions: Students of the American Academy in Prague
Our Editor-in-chief Benjamin Tallis yesterday moderated the only English language debate in the run-up to the Czech Presidential elections of 2018. The debate took place in the American Academy in Prague and three of the candidates participated:
- Pavel Fischer – Politician, Diplomat who served as Czech ambassador to France and who also ran the social research company STEM.
- Marek Hilšer – doctor, university lecturer and political activist who notably led campaigns against various aspects of proposed health and education reforms in the last decade.
- Michal Horáček – entrepreneur, lyricist, poet, writer, journalist and music producer. He founded the betting company Fortuna and was chairman of the Czech Academy of popular music.
Appropriately as the debate took place in English and in front of an international audience, it was focused on foreign policy and international relations. Tallis began introducing the candidates and providing a short introduction for the audience watching around the world:
“it is important to note that, as in other areas of policy and governance, the Czech President is not executive and has little formal power. However, as anyone familiar with the three presidents of the Czech Republic since the velvet divorce in 1993 – Václav Havel, Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman – will know, each of them has exercised a degree of influence greatly in excess of their formal, constitutional power – whether through international respect and moral authority, conviction and obstinacy or a populist willingness to court controversy.
Thus, the Czech President is an important figure in setting the tone for the country’s foreign as well as domestic politics and in fashioning the country’s reputation around the world. We were delighted therefore to have the chance to talk today with three of the candidates who are running for the office of the Czech head of state – and many thanks to Ondřej Kania and the American Academy in Prague for organising this excellent event, to Seznam Zprávy, the online broadcast partner of the debate and to the students of the American Academy who were putting their questions to the candidates today.
The debate proceeded by asking a series of questions – the same questions to all of the candidates in order to encourage debate and to facilitate comparison of their positions. The questions were posed by the students of the American academy and each candidate had 2 minutes to respond. The moderator then asked a brief follow up question and the candidates each had a further minute to respond and then we moved on to the next question. The questions come in three groups – firstly general questions about Czech foreign policy, then about relations with particular countries or groups of countries and finally about their positions on particular issues.
Here are the questions … we’ll be posting highlights of the answers and Benjamin Tallis’ take on the candidates responses shortly
I. General Considerations in International Relations and Czech Foreign Policy
1. Benjamin Tallis – So, first, I would like to ask the candidates why they feel it is important to address this audience – here in the academy and also the wider English-language audience watching the debate online.
2. Patricia – There are many ways of looking at Foreign Policy, but a key one is looking at a country’s interests and how it goes about pursuing them. What, for each of you, are the Czech Republic’s main foreign policy interests?
3. Nella – As well as interests, values are also an important part of politics, including foreign policy – and we’ve seen this in debates about refugees as well as other issues. I’d like to hear from each candidate what you think the values that should guide Czech foreign policy?
II. Foreign Relations
4. Jakub – From the election of Donald Trump to American involvement in the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula and the war in Syria, there has been a lot of discussion about the US’ role in the world. What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges for Czech relations with the United States, as one of our country’s key allies?
5. Maria – As well as relations with allies like the United States, the Czech Republic also has to maintain relations with countries whose governments don’t seem to share the same values. There has been a lot of discussion over security, as well as energy, trade and human rights, but what do you see as the main issues – and the approach to be taken – in Czech relations with countries like Russia and China?
6. Max – The EU is a key framework for the Czech Republic, but as well as institutions, it is comprised of many members and sub-groups like the Visegrad Four. Which EU members do the candidates see as being the Czech’s most important partners and why?
III. Issue Positions
7. Filip – There has a lot of talk recently about Czech EU membership and the possibility of a referendum on leaving the union – like the UK has chosen to do. But there has also been considerable debate about whether the Czech Republic should become more integrated in the EU by joining the Euro. Do the candidates think that the country should stay in the EU and do they think that it should join the Euro? If so, why and if not, why not?
8. Andrea – One of the most significant and controversial issues in recent years has been the question of migration and refugees coming to Europe. There has been controversy over quotas, claims that refugees pose threats of different kinds, but also many arguments that we need to fulfil our humanitarian responsibilities and that migrants and refugees can bring great benefits. Where do each of you stand on this issue?
9. Patricia – Gentlemen, thank you for your answers to the questions so far, but let me ask you something a little different. The fact that you are all gentlemen is representative of the field of candidates for President, all of whom are male. But it is not representative of the population. Why do you think this is and what can be done to change it in future?