The head of President Miloš Zeman’s foreign affairs office, Hynek Kmoníček, was confirmed this week as the next Czech ambassador to the United States. A career diplomat, who in the past served as ambassador to India and Australia, he is going to have to hit the ground running, as an upcoming visit by the Czech head of state and other officials are planned.
Hynek Kmoníček was long slated to be the next ambassador to the United States, following the long-serving Petr Gandalovič. But it was only this week that it became official. The Office of the President in Prague, said on Wednesday that it had received word from the Czech embassy in Washington confirming the development. Mr Kmoníček is no stranger to the job, indeed, quite the opposite, not only having served in Australia and India but also as the Czech ambassador to the United Nations. Mr Kmoníček, expected to take up the post within two weeks, will have his work cut out for him: an expected visit to the US by President Miloš Zeman sometime over the last two weeks of April, as well as ministers before that. Ambassador Kmoníček:
“We are expecting a fairly quick start, from the start of this month alone we will be welcoming Foreign Minister Zaorálek, Transport Minister Ťok, EU commissioner Jourová, and a number of others.”
Asked about the future of Czech-US relations, the new ambassador made clear there were plenty of challenges ahead but also the possibility for improvement – more centred on common issues and cooperation. The ambassador again:
“It will be a challenge. While we of course had very friendly and close relations over the past years, a greater common theme was missing a little bit. It would have been hard for us come forward with our own central topic; we also weren’t a problem for the US, so we weren’t on the agenda in the same way as Iraq with Nouri al-Maliki meeting with the Obama administration almost every two weeks.”
Major topics the ambassador expects to come to the fore include the fight against terrorism, a priority long pushed by the Czech president, as well as the Czech role in Syria seen by the US as a “protective power” by keeping open its embassy in Damascus. He also said he expected that the Czech Republic would also be one of those convincing other members of NATO, as well as leading by example in raising military expenses to 2 percent of GDP, an area where the country has been lagging and a key issue for President Trump. Last but not least, the ambassador discussed boosting business ties.
“There are a number of key economic issues. We would like to surprise the US, for example, by not only trying to attract new US investment in the Czech Republic but also the other way around.”