Czech government’s pro-Israel stance may have cost PM visit to Nigeria

Nigeria’s last-minute cancellation of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s (ODS, ECR) visit to the country as part of his Africa tour may have something to do with his government’s pro-Israel stance, a Czech expert on Africa matters has said.

According to the initial schedule, Fiala was to meet with Nigeria’s president, its gas minister and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) representative, but the visit was cancelled.

“Nigeria has informed us that it is unable to provide an adequate reception and programme, including the business forum, so we have agreed to cancel the visit,” Czech government spokesperson Václav Smolka said.

Nigeria has not commented further on the decision. However, according to an expert on Africa, this represents a blow to diplomacy.

“This last-minute cancellation is indeed a slap in the face of Prime Minister Fiala,” Ondřej Horký-Hlucháň, senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, told Euractiv Czechia, adding that politicians tend to frame Africa negatively while it has only little to offer to its African partners.

“Czechia is quite successful in exports, including arms, on the continent but cannot generate investments that would create jobs. Consequently, it is not a partner that African hegemons like Nigeria cannot do without,” the expert explained.

“I hope this diplomatic scandal is a wake-up call for the government to pay attention to the needs of Africa and invest tangible resources accordingly,” Horký-Hlucháň added.

However, the government was quick to shut down speculation, with  Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský saying the cancellation was due to an organisational matter.

The remainder of the prime minister’s trip was successful, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

However, experts suggest that foreign policy may have played a role – namely, a strong pro-Israeli stance in the wake of ongoing atrocities in Gaza.

In October, Czechia was among the 14 countries that voted against the UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which they said lacked stronger condemnation of Hamas and more significant support for Israel.

Over 13,000 people, mainly civilian women and children have been killed in Gaza since the 7 October when 1200 Israelis were killed in a Hamas terrorist attack. The ongoing bombardment and blockade of Gaza, home to some 2 million Palestinians has led to calls for a ceasefire, accusations of genocide and war crimes, and calls to sever diplomatic ties with Israel.

“It is clear that the Czech pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian biases can only be compared with those of the United States. The difference is Czechia is no world superpower,” Horký-Hlucháň said.

He also recalled the presence of politicians at pro-Israel demonstrations and the controversial remarks of Defence Minister Jana Černochová, who called for her country’s withdrawal from the UN. According to Horký-Hlucháň, such “extremist positions” within the government undermine the country’s image in the global South.

Before his trip, Fiala also warned of the EU’s neglect of Africa, saying that it needs to be changed.

“Not only the Czech Republic, but also the European Union and the countries that historically have much stronger and more natural ties with the African continent, have somewhat underestimated the development of relations with Africa in recent years, or the way we have done it has not been effective enough,” Fiala said before his trip.

However, Horký-Hlucháň points out that Czechia’s behaviour may be damaging EU-Africa relations.

“Unfortunately, the Czech example shows the disruptive rather than converging element of the efforts to create a strong, attractive and credible EU policy towards Africa,” the Czech expert said.

Source

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