11. 10. 2016

No Revolution Has Taken Place: The Post-2015 Human Rights Foreign Policy of the Czech Republic


In 2015, two new conceptual documents were adopted in the Czech Republic, under the Government of Bohuslav Sobotka – the general Concept of the Czech Republic´s Foreign Policy (available in English here) and a more specific Concept of Human Rights Promotion and Transition Cooperation (available in Czech here). The former document replaced an older text entitled Conceptual Basis of the Foreign Policy of the Czech Republic (available in English here) which had been adopted in 2011 by the Government of Petr Nečas. The latter document builds on the 2010 Concept of Transition Policy but it is broader in scope, covering not only transition policy/cooperation but also human rights promotion.

The adoption of the new conceptual documents was preceded by a lively public debate in which publicists, scholars and politicians from the Czech Republic and, partly from outside, took part. The debate started in spring 2014, after the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Petr Drulák had published a series of articles criticizing the narrow focus and selectivity of human rights foreign policy of the previous governments and announcing the intention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to revise this approach. The exchange of ideas, relating to the concept of human rights in general and to the role of human rights in foreign policy of the Czech Republic more specifically, lasted till the first months of 2015. It was highly polarized and, at instances, emotional.

In the debate, fears were expressed that the Czech Republic was at the brink of a revolution in its human rights foreign policy. The country was, purportedly, getting ready to sweep away the heritage of the post-1989 development, abandoning the idea of the universality of human rights, turning its back to the promotion of civil and political rights, closing down the TRANS programme (financially supporting pro-democratic projects carried out by Czech and foreign non-governmental organizations) and changing its thematic and territorial priorities. The revolution was to find its expression in the new conceptual documents whose drafting started in the first half of 2014.

With the new Concept of the Czech Republic´s Foreign Policy and Concept of Human Rights Promotion and Transition Cooperation already adopted and implemented for more than year, we can assess whether the fears have turned out to be well-founded.