International media: New Czech president set to 'change the course of the head of state'

German media outlets wrote that while Zeman divided society his pro-West, pro-EU successor represents a shift for the country. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 10.03.2023 10:28:00 (updated on 10.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

International media hailed the inauguration of Petr Pavel as a change in direction for Czechia. His pro-Western stance is expected to be a marked shift from that of his predecessor Miloš Zeman.

The Associate Press said Pavel’s election is expected to cement the country’s Western orientation. “His predecessor Zeman divided the nation with his pro-Russian stance and support for closer ties with China,” the AP said.

Pavel’s support for Ukraine and acknowledgment of the importance of Czechia’s European Union and NATO membership were also noted by the news agency.

The AP also mentioned an "unexpected" moment during the inauguration, when Pavel unfurled the presidential standard that had been stolen in 2015 by the Ztohoven group and replaced it with red underwear to mock Zeman’s pro-Russian stance.

News agency Bloomberg was also optimistic that the new president would return Czechia to the European mainstream. “His inauguration marks a political shift at the top of Czech politics following the decade-long tenure of Miloš Zeman, who antagonized European Union allies with support for Beijing and — until he invaded Ukraine — Vladimir Putin.

A hero in France

France 24 tried to give a more personal look, and after summarizing his career noted his hobbies were travel, skiing, photography, and reading, but his “true passion” is motorcycling. Pavel though, says he will have little time for it this year.

France 24 and French news agency AFP both recalled Pavel’s role as a war hero who helped to save the lives of French troops in the Bosnian War in 1993.

Slovak newspaper Sme said that after 10 years the Castle will "again be the civil, cultural and open seat of the head of state." Their analyst Peter Schutz added that their couldn't be a sharper change in direction that the one between the new and old presidents.

Shutz went on to recount not only Zeman's ties to Russia and China, but also many of the embarrassing moments of Zeman's term such as his being fined for smoking in a London hotel.

High expectations from the German media

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung noted the arrival of a "serious president," adding that Pavel is conservative and ready to talk. Germans should realize that Pavel's arrival at the Castle represents an opportunity.

German radio station Deutschlandfunk noted Pavel’s expected change in direction, as well as his different background. “He is no politician. He is a newcomer to politics, without party affiliation, which played a role in the [election] campaign, enabling him to act above parties,” said Deutschlandfunk radio.

Deutschlandradio’s Prague correspondent Marianne Allweiss was among those most critical of the previous president, and most optimistic for change.

“Even some fans of Miloš Zeman have a problem finding positive words," she said according to news server iDnes, adding that there was wide agreement that Zeman mainly divided the society by verbally attacking journalists, migrants, sexual minorities, the EU, and environmentalists. She called Zeman’s term a lost decade.

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