Czech President-elect Petr Pavel to speak with leaders of Ukraine, Taiwan

Pavel's first actions after winning the Czech presidency will include calls with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 29.01.2023 13:47:00 (updated on 29.01.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Petr Pavel will speak with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen this afternoon by phone, he confirmed in an interview on CNN Prima News this morning. The calls will be among Pavel's first with foreign leaders since being elected Czech president this weekend.

Pavel defeated rival Andrej Babiš in landslide victory yesterday and is set to become the fourth president of the Czech Republic. The newly-elected leader will replace outgoing president Miloš Zeman on March 8.

"The joyous celebration did not last so long," Pavel remarked of his election victory to CNN Prima this morning. "Along with a feeling of satisfaction, I'm starting to feel the burden of responsibility and expectations more and more."

Pavel's immediate dialogue with leaders of Ukraine and Taiwan, who both issued congratulations to the president-elect after his victory, indicate a stark change in policy at Prague Castle.

Zeman had close ties with both Russia (prior to the invasion of Ukraine) and China, and hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Prague in contrast to the policy of previous Czech leaders. He did not appear to have an open dialogue with counterparts in Ukraine or Taiwan, and even criticized other Czech officials' visits to Taiwan.

Pavel told CNN that he expects to meet with Zeman on Monday, after speaking with Zelenskyy and Ing-wen today. He will also meet with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala during this coming week.

The president-elect added that he would discuss with Zelenskyy the possibility of meeting in Ukraine this spring, a trip that would also include Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová.

If initial actions are any indication, the Czech and Slovak leaders will also have a close relationship. Čaputová made a surprise appearance at Pavel's press conference yesterday in Prague to congratulate the newly-elected Czech leader in person just before the election results were officially announced.

"The most beautiful [message] was the direct congratulations from President Čaputová," Pavel told CNN today, referring to the words of praise he has received from world leaders on his election victory.

Speaking to Czech Television's Václav Moravec, Pavel added that he doesn't see an issue to concluding a defense agreement with the United States, similar to the one Slovakia signed early last year.

"There is no reason to be afraid of such an agreement, but it is necessary to explain to people what it is about and that it will have a positive effect on their lives," Pavel told Moravec.

According to Dalibor Roháč from the American Enterprise Institute, Pavel's presidency will bring a big change to Czech-US relations. Speaking to Czech Television, Roháč noted that Pavel will be popular in Washington thanks to his proficiency in English and sense of humor, as well as the fact that he "looks like Tom Cruise's father."

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