Czech-German Relations: A Dialogue in Place of Strategy, in Hope of Strategy and in Need of Strategy

"The Czech-German Strategic Dialogue has been hailed as a significant upgrading of relations between the two countries. However, while it holds great potential, the dialogue mainly covers practical or tactical cooperation and is currently lacking in real strategic content. This deficit reflects a wider lack of strategic convergence between the partners and requires political, rather than bureaucratic action to address it. Doing so will require a larger shift in foreign policy thinking and action, particularly on the Czech side," writes Benjamin Tallis in his newest policy paper.

Pdf download (253kb, ENG)

Key Recommendations

  • For the Czech side: To identify the ‘big questions of German foreign policy’ and develop more productive and feasible Czech contributions to answering them. A reciprocal exercise should also be conducted on the German side. This could be undertaken in Working Group 1 on Foreign and European Policy.
  • For both partners: To consider keeping only these ‘genuinely strategic’ issues as part of an ongoing Czech-German Strategic Dialogue, while moving other practical issues of cooperation to a separate format – e.g. ‘The Czech-German Partnership’. This would mitigate the reputation (and therefore sustainability) risk that being insufficiently strategic poses for the CGSD.
  • For the Czech MFA and Office of the Government: To begin to address the lack of positive Czech identity in foreign policy and as an EU member by identifying areas of both values and interest based politics – ideally combining the two – where the Czech Republic can show leadership at the European level. These policy areas should be selected to enhance the country’s capacity and ability to develop common purpose and reciprocity in its strategic relations including with Germany, its key partner. Recent initiatives on European defence and European social policy are a good start which can be built on but also followed through in practice.
  • For the Czech political and foreign policy community: To move from being a passive to an active defender of the EU – the flourishing of which is central to the upholding of Czech values and the pursuit of Czech interests, as well as aligning strategic priorities with Germany – and to mount a full-scale publicity campaign in this regard. This will take on additional significance in the context of the Czech Republic becoming a net-contributor to the EU which will require a significant public diplomacy investment to show the benefits of membership beyond transfer payments.
  • For all concerned parties on the Czech side: To use this publicity effort – and the campaign for Czech leadership – to spark a wider public, political and intra-partisan debate on Czech foreign policy vision involving a broad spectrum of political parties, societal stakeholder groups and communities around the country. This would not only raise the profile of foreign policy issues but would also help to identify key areas of dissonance, resonance and even domestic consensus that could clarify and underpin future strategy.
  • For the Czech government: To seriously consider the compatibility of Czech strategic relations in the V4 – but also with e.g. Azerbaijan – with the aspiration to strategic relations with Germany in the context of a liberal EU of the type that Germany seeks to preserve.