As retired army general and former NATO Military Committee chairman Petr Pavel took over as president of the Czech Republic in early March, a new window of opportunity opened to strengthen the already cordial relations between Prague and Taipei.
In a move unprecedented in Europe, Pavel accepted a congratulatory call from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) two days after his success in the second round of elections in January. He publicly spoke about the normative convergence between Czechia and Taiwan, praising the latter’s democratic system.
Importantly, the beginning of Pavel’s five-year term puts an end to internal divisions within the Czech executive branch, which culminated under incumbent Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Pavel’s China-friendly predecessor, Milos Zeman. As intra-executive conflicts have caused tension over Taiwan policy in other European capitals, most notably Vilnius, the new leadership at Prague Castle marks the end of an era in China-Czechia ties and a new beginning in relations between Czechia and Taiwan.
Outside of Prague Castle, Pavel will find many allies to carry out a successful “pivot to Taipei.” Parliamentary diplomacy between the two countries continues to flourish and deliver tangible results. Marketa Pekarova Adamova, president of the Czech Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies, presided over a 150-strong delegation of elected officials, senior government figures and entrepreneurs that arrived in Taiwan at the end of March.
The visit served as a strong sign of continuity in Prague’s outreach to Taiwan, as it was reminiscent of the 89-member delegation headed by Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil in 2020.
Then-Chinese minister of foreign affairs Wang Yi (王毅) said that Czechia would pay a “heavy price” for Vystrcil’s visit, which Beijing deemed as “crossing the red line” and challenging Beijing’s “one China” principle.
Yet, despite Beijing’s efforts to intimidate Prague, Czech executive and legislative institutions continue to view Taiwan as an important and like-minded partner in the Indo-Pacific.
The alignment within the executive, as well as between the presidential office and the Czech parliament, should offer more space for the expansion and institutionalization of relations between Prague and Taipei.
Three major directions for such developments can be elaborated on:
First, economic relations are to be a priority, and Czechia can be expected to seek to attract more investments from Taiwan in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.
New bilateral mechanisms, such as capacity building programs for young talent, would strengthen people-to-people exchanges and increase mutual awareness between Prague and Taipei in areas of strategic economic importance.
During Adamova’s visit, National Science and Technology Council Minister Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠) announced that the executive agency would collaborate with Czechia on capacity building in strategic technologies.
The council plans to assist Czechia in setting up a semiconductor research and development center and training semiconductor engineers. This would be an important step to expand the existing cooperation schemes such as the government-led Taiwan Semiconductor Scholarship Program, which targets four Central European countries, including Czechia.
Beyond semiconductors, National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) announced that the government-backed Central and Eastern European Investment Fund would invest up to US$5 million in a virtual-reality developer in Czechia.
These practical steps for Czechia are instrumental in maintaining the positive political momentum backing the relations between Prague and Taipei. Specifically, they provide policymakers in Czechia with political capital that they can utilize to support the case for engaging with Taiwan among their electorate.
Second, Czechia and Taiwan are likely to conclude more bilateral deals in various domains, such as judicial cooperation — following the Polish-Taiwanese Agreement on the Legal Cooperation in Criminal Matters and the Slovak-Taiwanese Arrangement on Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters — or defense industry cooperation.
The institutionalization of relations between Czechia and Taiwan remains vital to ensuring the sustainability of these ties. During Adamova’s visit, an array of Czech and Taiwanese institutions signed a total of 10 memoranda of understanding and letters of intent, including a joint statement on parliamentary cooperation between the Legislative Yuan and the Czech Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies.
The lack of bilateral cooperation arrangements related to mutual legal assistance points to an important void in ensuring the protection of the legal rights of investors and traders.
Third, it is plausible that more regular high-level exchanges will take place between politicians on both sides, which might also go beyond parliamentary diplomacy.
During his campaign, Pavel said that he would travel to Taiwan as the sitting president of the Czech Republic and reiterated his willingness to meet Tsai in person.
Additionally, outside of the strictly bilateral context, Taipei and Prague have the opportunity to deepen their cooperation in supporting Ukraine and its people during the Russian invasion. As a retired general and NATO official, Pavel views the war in Ukraine as the main challenge he needs to manage. As the Tsai administration allocates resources to help Ukraine, Taipei should turn to Czechia as one of it key regional partners in Central Eastern Europe to facilitate its efforts to engage with Kyiv.
Czechia has a unique role to play in shaping the perception of Taiwan across Central Eastern Europe and within the EU. Notably, it became the fourth EU member state after France, Germany and the Netherlands, to publish its own Indo-Pacific strategy.
The document explicitly states that it is in the interest of Czechia to deepen cooperation with Taiwan, which it deems one of its key democratic partners in the region.
The policy establishment in Prague also recognizes that the rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait are not merely a regional issue, but rather something that could spill over regional boundaries and escalate into a global conflict. This stands in clear contrast to the recent comments of French President Emmanuel Macron, who distanced himself from tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Consequently, it is in the best interest of Taiwan to continue investing in relations with Czechia to take full advantage of the political arrangements in Prague.
Taipei’s outreach strategy should rest on three pillars: the further institutionalization of bilateral ties; investment promotion and capacity building, particularly in the sector of strategic technologies; and the promotion of people-to-people ties to increase “Czechia literacy” in Taiwan and vice versa.
Reciprocal expansion of Taiwan-Czechia ties could serve as an illustrative example for other countries in Central Eastern Europe and facilitate the broadening of Taiwan’s international space there.
Marcin Jerzewski is head of the Taiwan Office at the European Values Center for Security Policy and a research fellow at the Taiwan NextGen Foundation.
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