Czech Interests 2020: Analyses IIR

The publication serves as an output of the time framed research activity of the IIR, which is based on the progress conception of the Institute of International Relations Prague in 2018-2022.

Looking back at various predictions for the year 2020, one could sense some optimism from analyses related to the Czech political scene and/or economy, or globally, the outcomes of the US presidential elections and Brexit, suggesting a restart for democracy and liberalisation, although these analyses also mentioned concerns over the visible polarisation in the Czech society and stressed the impacts of climate change. Turning a page, the COVID−19 pandemic-stricken 2020 has immensely influenced the way we live, work and view public health emergencies, lockdown measures, the competence of the government and our relations with foreign countries. The pandemic has had socioeconomic impacts on many people, but mostly on those who had been already vulnerable. It has also affected the broader topics of migration, inequality, security, and rule of law. We are at the crossroads with an opportunity to reassess our country priorities, conducts of foreign policy and the quality of our partnerships.

The crisis has shown how much governments looked inward and paid attention to national interests when a major non-traditional security threat hit, but at the same time, the leaderships had to mobilise their cooperations with established allies to secure the necessary help and equipment. Collective responses, however, have been lagging, and when this was mixed with confusing guidelines from the government, the public and the expert community – actively connected through social media – have expressed their discontent and have become more vocal, demanding changes and more robust and clear responses from
those in charge.

This edited volume by 8 experts from the Institute of International Relations (IIR), Prague, seeks to contribute to these discussions by analysing selected topics that these researchers had already monitored before the pandemic because the overall conclusion here is that some challenges pre-date the global health crisis, and the pandemic simply accelerated the trends or further deepened the divides and issues. As such the aim is to analyse how the COVID−19 pandemic impacted these key themes, whether a ‘recovery’ will mean a return to the pre-COVID state or whether there will be any differences in the future, and
what policy prescriptions the experts would recommend for the Czech government.

This publication builds on the previous 11 volumes on Česká zahraniční politika (Czech Foreign Policy) and specifically on the methodology used between 2013 and 2018, and the subsequent publication Česká zájmy v roce 2019: Analýzy ÚMV (Czech Interests in 2019: Analyses of the IIR), which was published by the IIR Prague in 2020. The main goal of this book is to contribute to the ongoing discussions on Czech national interests, defined as any politics (any goal, idea or set of goals/ideas) which is relevant to the Czech Republic
and its society, and is internally widely supported and accepted by the international community.

These studies follow three basic criteria for assessing the domestic legitimacy of a given policy: relevance and consensus, inspired by the theory of democracy, and the criterion of external acceptability, which is inspired by theories of international relations. All three criteria must be met for a policy to become a national interest. However, this is not a permanently valid characteristic because there is a shift in the domestic and foreign spheres.

At the same time, relevance must go beyond the interests of a particular region or social group. The given policy may fundamentally affect the external or internal functioning of the Czech Republic, change its basic characteristics, or cause it to adopt important rights and obligations. Empirically, relevance is determined by examining program documents of central authorities, speeches, and opinion polls. It is important that the given topic is discussed in the media and society on a long-term basis (many months, preferably several