Czech government’s pro-Israel stance may have cost PM’s visit to Nigeria – EURACTIV.com

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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-Israeli stance, said a Czech expert on African issues.

According to the original schedule, Fiala was to meet the Nigerian president, his gas minister and the representative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), but the visit was canceled.

“Nigeria informed us that it was unable to provide adequate hospitality and program, including the business forum, so we agreed to cancel the visit,” the government spokesperson said Czech, Václav Smolka.

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

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

“Czechia does quite well in exports, including arms, to the continent, but fails to generate investments that could create jobs. Therefore, it is not a partner that African hegemons like Nigeria cannot do without,” explained the expert.

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

However, the government quickly put an end to speculation, with Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský saying the cancellation was due to an organizational 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-Israel stance following the ongoing atrocities in Gaza.

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

More than 13,000 people, mainly civilian women and children, have been killed in Gaza since October 7, when 1,200 Israelis were killed in a Hamas terrorist attack. The continued bombing 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 relations diplomatic relations with Israel.

“It is clear that the Czech Republic’s pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian prejudices can only be compared to those of the United States. The difference is that Czechia is not a global superpower,” Horký-Hlucháň said.

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

Before his trip, Fiala also warned of EU neglect towards Africasaying it needs to be changed.

“Not only the Czech Republic, but also the European Union and 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 did it was not effective enough,” Fiala said before his trip.

However, Horký-Hlucháň emphasizes that Czechia’s behavior could harm EU-Africa relations.

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

(Aneta Zachová | Euractiv.cz)

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