Czech EU presidency 'to forge closer ties'

Czech EU presidency 'to forge closer ties'

Renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific not a strategy to contain China, writes Poramet Tangsathaporn

"It is not about being on China's side or the US's side but it is about being on the side of peaceful development," Czech ambassador Libor Secka, also the special envoy of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Indo-Pacific. (Photo: Apichit Jinakul)

When the Czech Republic takes the presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of this year, it plans to bind the Indo-Pacific region more closely with the EU.

"The Czech Republic had decided to take Indo-Pacific as one of our priorities in foreign policy. This is our presidency priority," Ambassador Libor Secka, the Special Envoy of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Indo-Pacific, told the Bangkok Post during an interview in Bangkok.

When asked whether the EU's Indo-Pacific strategy was about China containment, he said the main aim was to maintain peaceful development in international relations, leading to more cooperation between them.

"Our society is confronted with conflicts and we feel we need to keep the peace. That means we have to concentrate on uniting our forces together just to keep the status quo in international relations. This is the number one aim," he said.

"If we see that China does much more to keep the peace, we can cooperate with them as we share the same goal. It is not about being on China's side or the US's side but it is about being on the side of peaceful development," he added.

To enhance cooperation under the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, the Czechs will launch activities with Thailand and Asean countries.

The country will host the High-Level Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific on June 13-14 in Prague, a seminar on space cooperation in Bangkok in September and end its presidency term with the first Asean-EU summit in Brussels in December.

He said the meeting in Prague next month would discuss a wide range of topics including deepening security and political cooperation, improving economics and the supply chain.

Participants will be drawn from the private and public sectors and include ministers from the Indo-Pacific region such as Indonesia, India, the United States and some other partners like the United Kingdom, academics and business partners. For Thailand, he expects the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' permanent secretary to attend.

He said the Czechs also will bring space and aviation technologies to the region via the seminar on space cooperation in Bangkok.

One of the technology highlights is Copernicus, the European Union's Earth observation programme.

The technology provides near-real-time data at a global level which can be used for developing environmental legislation and policies or making critical decisions in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis.

The technology can be used for monitoring environmental changes which can help people prevent or prepare for natural disasters, he said.

The seminar will also focus on European space diplomacy under the slogan "Safety, Security and Sustainability" or "3SOS".

In addition, the Czech Republic will push cooperation on the environment within the Indo-Pacific region. In September, the Czech Republic will hold an international conference in Jakarta together with Indonesia as G20 president.

"For the conference, we would like to invite many countries to attend this event, not only Asean but also Australia. We also want to invite the Chinese experts as we share a common interest. We will exchange experiences and improve cooperation on protecting nature," he added.

Czech experts on natural protection in Indonesia, he said, regularly work on natural resource protection with Indonesian experts.

"It is an ambitious project which aims at the protection of nature, and again the protection of nature is something where we are strong, especially the protection of endangered species. There are 26,000 endangered species around the world."

Cyberspace and its security will be another area where the Czech Republic wants to cooperate with the Indo-Pacific region, he said, adding it will participate in the cyberspace security conference in Singapore in mid-October and look at how the EU could set up new rules and regulations in cyberspace.

The Czechs also will push forward on maritime security issues and will take part in a maritime security seminar in Hanoi later this year. The annual event will be organised by the Vietnamese Diplomatic Academy.

"We will talk about maritime law and its application and the South China Sea issue," he said.

Lastly, the Czechs will host the first Asean-EU summit in the middle of December in Brussels to mark the 45th anniversary of Asean-EU relations.

"Our president will be involved. We are working on the content that will be presented at the summit," he said.

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