Czech President Milos Zeman will not attend this week’s Nato Central and Eastern European Regional Summit, spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said on November 3.
Leaders from the Baltic countries, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia will meet in Bucharest on November 4. There they have pledged to press for increased Nato presence in the region in response to what many see as Russia’s increasingly imperial stance.
Zeman's absence will leave the Czech Republic as the only of the nine CEE countries not to be represented by its head of state, Hospodarske Noviny writes. While Slovakia and Hungary are seen as closer to Moscow than Prague, Zeman has consistently followed a controversial line during the two year stand off between Russia and the West. The Czech Republic will be represented by Chamber of Deputies chairman Jan Hamacek.
Ovcacek claims Zeman has a “conflict of entries in his schedule”. However, critics insist it is a clear message that he objects to the push from hawks such as Poland and the Baltics for Nato to respond to Russian policy with additional forces in the EU's eastern regions.
Although Prague has waivered throughout the crisis kicked off by the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Czech Republic’s official foreign policy has supported the line pushed by Washington and Brussels. Slovakia and Hungary have garnered much harsher criticism for their stances.
However, Zeman has repeatedly criticised EU sanctions against Russia, and has stirred controversy by dismissing the Ukrainian conflict as a “civil war”. He was one of only two EU heads of state to visit Moscow in May for events commemorating the end of the World War II.
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