Czech Republic's reaction to the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence

The Czech Republic's reaction to the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence follows Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, enacted on 17 February 2008 by the Kosovan Parliament. The act proclaimed the Republic of Kosovo. On 21 May 2008, the Czech Republic became the 41st state to formally recognize Kosovo.cite web|url=|title=The Czech Republic has recognized independence of Kosovo|date=2008-05-21|publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic|accessdate=2008-05-21]

Initial reactions

When Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, the Czech government initially declared that they would not immediately recognize Kosovo as an independent state, instead the Czech Republic would wait for the European Union to come up with a common stance towards the declaration. It became clear shortly afterwards that the EU would have no common stand on recognition of Kosovo due to objections from members such as Spain, Romania, Greece, and Slovakia. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg then announced that the Czech Republic would take a wait and see approach; they would observe how many nations recognize Kosovo, and the way in which the Kosovo government behaves.cite news|url= |title=Czech government hesitates to recognize Kosovo|publisher=Radio Praha |date=2008-02-19 |accessdate=2008-06-28]

Prior to the 17 February declaration, the Czech Social Democratic Party and Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia signaled their opposition to recognizing any unilateral declaration by Kosovo. [cite news|url=|title=Czech Parliament may reject an independent Kosovo|publisher=Radio Praha |date=2008-01-08 |accessdate=2008-06-28] Shortly after the declaration they stayed true to their pre-declaration words, with the two parties proclaiming a similarity between Kosovo's declaration and the 1938 Munich Agreement. President Václav Klaus also sympathized with the Serbian side, saying that the Czech Republic "must take into account the traditional friendly relations between the Czech and Serbian nations" and that the Serbian nation "has always sided with us in time of difficult historic trials". [cite news|url=|title=Czech President Klaus concerned about development in Kosovo |publisher=České |date=2008-02-22 |accessdate=2008-06-28]

Meanwhile, early supporters of recognizing Kosovo as an independent state included Alexandr Vondra, the Minister of European Affairs. Vondra predicted that the Czech government would eventually recognize Kosovo, saying "It is sort of like dancing on eggshells, it is like handling a powder keg. In situations like this, I think it is better to be really careful. We will wait, we will evaluate the situation; there is no hurry. It will certainly not happen this week but let's be realists – we certainly won't wait for six months." Both Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg eventually declared their support for recognizing Kosovo. [cite news|url=|title=PM pushes for Kosovo recognition ahead of NATO summit|publisher=Radio Praha |date=2008-03-31 |accessdate=2008-06-28] [cite news|url= |title=Czech Republic is not a risk factor… |publisher=The European Weekly |date=2008-05-19 |accessdate=2008-06-28] Topolánek tried to get recognition through the cabinet of the Czech government just prior to the NATO summit in Bucharest. However, his attempt was unsuccessful because a significant part of the governing Civic Democratic Party opposed recognition. [cite news|url= |title=GOVERNMENT NOT TO RECOGNISE KOSOVO FOR TIME BEING, TOPOLANEK |publisher=The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia |date=2008-03-26 |accessdate=2008-06-28]

According to an opinion poll published in early April 2008, 53% of a polled population believed that the independence declaration against Serbia's wishes would have negative consequences for stability in the Balkans, while 67% of them did not think that independence would help normalize relations between Serbs and Albanians in the slightest bit, but will rather exacerbate them further. Finally, 36% opposed Kosovo's unilateral independence declaration, 34% supported it, while the remaining 30% were undecided. [cite news|url= |title=Czechs believe Kosovo independence "undermines stability" |publisher=B92 |date=2008-04-04 |accessdate=2008-06-28]


Encouraged by the results of the May 2008 parliamentary elections in Serbia in which the For a European Serbia coalition did much better than expected, previously skeptical ministers of the Czech government reconsidered their positions and began to support recognition of Kosovo. [cite news|url=|title=Prague encouraged by Serbia vote, rethinks Kosovo |publisher=B92 |date=2008-05-13 |accessdate=2008-06-28] It is important to note that the For a European Serbia coalition is opposed to the unilateral declaration by the Kosovo government, however it also wants Serbia to join the EU. After three months of debate, on 21 May the Czech Republic recognized Kosovo as an independent nation because recognition will strengthen "the overall stability in the region" the government said.

After the recognition was announced by the Czech government, Serbia responded by recalling its ambassador from Prague. [cite news|url= |title=Serbia recalls ambassador to Czech |publisher=China Daily |date=2008-05-23 |accessdate=2008-06-28] This was not an unusual move as, in an act of protest, Serbia had pulled all of their ambassadors from nations which recognized Kosovo. [cite news|url= |title=Serbia to reinstate EU ambassadors recalled over Kosovo |publisher=RIA Novosti |date=2008-07-24 |accessdate=2008-07-30] Before the Serbian ambassador left Prague, he met with President Václav Klaus. After the meeting Klaus said that he was especially alarmed by the words of Serbian Ambassador Vladimir Vereš that Serbs had not taken it personally when Kosovo was recognized by countries such as Finland and the Netherlands, but that they were hurt by the action of the Czech government. Klaus also said that he felt ashamed because of the Czech government's decision. [cite news|url= |title=KLAUS FEELS ASHAMED BECAUSE OF CZECH RECOGNITION OF KOSOVO |publisher=The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia |date=2008-05-26 |accessdate=2008-06-28] As regards the opposition, their members still insisted that the recognition "is a shame and a violation of international law". [cite news|url= |title=Czech president defies Prague decision, US criticizes Pristina’s lobbying |publisher=Kosovo Compromise |date=2008-05-27 |accessdate=2008-06-28] Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, while admitting the decision is unpopular in some quarters, defended the government's decision by saying that independent Kosovo was a reality and Czech diplomacy would now be able to pursue active policies not only toward Kosovo, but also toward Serbia. [cite news|url= |title=Czech Foreign Minister defends recognition of Kosovo|publisher=České |date=2008-05-26 |accessdate=2008-06-28]

A month after recognizing Kosovo as an independent state, this was still a hot political issue and the government was still advocating their decision from the opposers' critique. [cite news|url= |title= Kosovo autonomy dispute rages|publisher=The Prague Post |date=2008-06-25 |accessdate=2008-06-28] On 16 July 2008 the Czech government upgraded their liaison office in Pristina to an embassy led by a chargé d'affaires. [cite news|title=CZECH REPUBLIC OPENS EMBASSY IN PRISTINA |url= |publisher=The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia |date=2008-07-16|accessdate=2008-07-30] Belgrade also announced that its ambassadors will return to the EU countries that recognised Kosovo. The ambassador to the Czech Republic returned on 3 August 2008. [cite news|title=Serbian ambassador back in Prague after protest|url=|publisher=Czech Press Agency|date=2008-08-06|accessdate=2008-08-06]

According to a poll published in July 2008, 30% of the polled population agreed with the government's decision to recognize independent Kosovo, 31% opposed it, and 39% were undecided. [cite news|url= |title=Poll: Czechs split evenly over Kosovo independence |publisher=Prague Daily Monitor |date=2008-07-28 |accessdate=2008-07-30]

ee also

*International reaction to the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence


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