Čaputová abroad: Winning hearts and showing elbows
Čaputová makes eight business trips during the first summer of her presidency. One of them is taking place in Germany right now. She did not make friends during her visiting the four Visegrád countries, but sends a clear messages when it comes to human rights.
Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová has chosen the slogan of her presidency to be „heart, reason, hands“. She has proven to have an abundance of those first two already during the presidential elections.
She was not afraid to open her heart to the voters which helped her to win over theirs and to become the first female president of the small conservative Slowak nation. Her reasonable approach to domestic politics and strategic partnership building prove that she is no political poster beauty but a strong and confident leader.
Criticizing the V4, loving the EU
Čaputová’s first visit was, as tradition commands, to the neighbouring Czech Republic. Other Visegrád countries followed. After the first round of diplomatic visits, two things were already very clear: Čaputova’s foreign policy is going to be every liberal’s dream. And the president is anything but kind to her central European partners.
Even though she was trying to be as diplomatic as possible, her disapproval of the current Czech political situation was detectable. During her speech she mentioned quite openly for diplomatic standards that she understands those who are protesting against the current government.
„It is already obvious that we won't be in agreement on many issues“, she noted with regards to the address of the Czech President Miloš Zeman. She also visited the grave of the Peace Nobel Prize Laureate and Czech President Václav Havel, to where Mr. Zeman refused to accompany her. One could comment that the symbolism of this situation spoke for itself.
During her visit to Hungary, she openly criticized the country's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his autocratic policies. She also spoke in the defence of the values of liberal democracy which is being challenged in Hungary by Orban’s regime.
She also criticized the long term unconstructive approach of the four Visegrád countries (V4) within the EU, which harmed the region’s ambitions during the “European Game of Thrones” – the recent reshuffle of EU institutions’ top jobs.
The Hungarians did not need long to react. The state media started referring to Čaputová as the agent of American billionaire George Soros.
In Warsaw, she reminded her audience of the important role of former President Lech Walesa in the defeat of communism. Given the difficult relationship between Walesa and the current eminence of Polish politics, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the incumbent government must understand these remarks as a provocation.
At the same time, Čaputová did not hesitate to appreciate Poland’s support for Ukraine, referring to Kiev as to a strategic partner. She also condemned Russia as a country „not respecting rules.“
When talking about her home country, Čaputová is (understandably) very keen on promoting Slovakia abroad as the most pro-European country in Central Europe. Slovakia is the only V4 country to have adopted the Euro.
A heart for human rights
Čaputová is sending clear messages when it comes to human rights.
She never misses a chance to criticize China for its persistent violation of human rights. She has seized the first opportunity to do so during the state visit of the Chinese minister of foreign affairs to Slovakia. „I have informed the minister that I consider protection of human rights to be the integral cornerstone of our freedom“, Mrs. Čaputová said.
Unlike other V4 politicians, Čaputová has also spoken openly in support of refugees. During her state visit to France, she said that irregular migration is a problem for the whole EU and all member states must be part of a solution.
Adéla Klečková is Project Manager of the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation for Central Europe and the Baltic States.