The United States Senate on Wednesday approved the nomination of Andrew Schapiro as ambassador to Prague. Like the outgoing American ambassador, Norman Eisen, Mr. Schapiro is a lawyer who has worked alongside the US president, Barack Obama. But how is the next US ambassador like to differ from his predecessor? That’s a question I put to journalist Daniel Anýž, who is an expert on Czech-US relations.
“But I think that Andrew Schapiro will probably be a bit more organised and probably behave in a bit more proper, diplomatic protocol way.
“It’s been one of the features of the current ambassador that he sometimes behaves in a way which creates good situations or a bit more difficult situations for his staff. I don’t mean that critically – it really could work and did work both ways.”
Like Mr. Eisen, Mr. Schapiro is close to President Obama. Do you think there’s any sense in which the Czech government could benefit from the American ambassador having the ear of the US president to some degree?
“It really depends on the Czech government and Czech politicians as to whether they will be skillful enough to use this advantage.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t look now that the Czech-US links are one of the priorities of the current Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But the option is there, the added value is there, and it depends on the Czech government whether they will take it.”
Mr. Schapiro told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that he would urge the Czech government to boost spending on defence. Do you think he’s likely to succeed in that regard?
“I think that process has already started here in the Czech Republic. It’s clear that at the upcoming NATO summit in Wales in September the Czech Republic would like to come with a concrete timetable under which they will increase the budget.
“Mr. Schapiro could stress the case, but this is clearly a Czech discussion. The most important person here is the minister of finance, Mr. Babiš. So if I could give some advice to Mr. Schapiro, it would be to have good relations with Mr. Babiš.”
His mother was born in Prague but fled in 1939 with her Jewish parents. Do you know if Mr. Schapiro or his family have spent much time in Prague?
“Mr. Schapiro himself, not that much. Ambassador Eisen mentioned yesterday that he was here two years ago on a visit. As I understood, that was probably a rare visit.
“But this visit was probably one of the important reasons why he decided to apply for the ambassadorship. I would definitely say there is some strong affiliation and feeling for the place.”