An Interview with H.E. Tomáš Kafka, the Ambassador of Czech Republic in Berlin
‘The most important aspect of European integration is our togetherness’October 06th, 2021
On Monday, the 4th of October, Lobke Vermeiren and Athanasios Apotas had the opportunity to conduct an interview with the Ambassador of the Czech Republic, H.E. Tomas Kafka.
As the Ambassador of Czech Republic, can you tell us more about the relationship between Germany and Czech Republic?
The relationship between Germany and the Czech Republic was originally viewed as a neighbourly one and it has gone through ups and downs throughout modern history. However, our cooperation has greatly improved since 1997, when the Czech–German Declaration was signed. So there has been no more marginal fear of the past. Any inconvenient thoughts or maybe uncertainties are actually related to the future.
The Czech-German relationship is happily moving forward from the past. The era we are in maybe could be described as “the final days of the analogue industry”, and it’s quite satisfying. We are at the outbreak of the digital industry where there are many open questions and we are fully aware of the fact that individual countries are not able to face this change on their own, so it's important to have not only partners but sparring partners who may help you to properly understand changes and support one another. That’s for me, as representative of the Czech Republic, the main challenge: facilitate the German-Czech exchange and the management of our relationship, with the prospect of deepening our sparring partnership. Our first step it’s not just to change the world, but first of all to properly understand it in order to be prepared to make an actual change.
Regarding more specific details, we have some Czech communities scattered all around Germany, we also have Czech investments, as well as German investments in the Czech Republic. We also share a very tight industrial relationship and business cooperation with Germany. Both countries are actually very much coined by their industrial past. Looking at future prospects, we wish for a mutual exchange between Germany and the Czech Republic in facing ongoing challenges.
The ICD is highly interested in Cultural diplomacy. Could you tell us more about what cultural diplomacy means to you?
Curiosity is one of the keys to our openness towards the world around us, which was also disregarded due to COVID-19. It was not easy to cope with these issues. You need encouragement and inspiration. Basic freedom is the only thing that we were left with. Nowadays the world is made in a way so that freedom is almost always guaranteed. There is no motivation in constitutions to consume and enjoy all of the freedom together; you could be very much left alone.
How do you think that cultural diplomacy can strengthen the relationship between Germany and the Czech Republic?
The Czech-German relation had a lot of troubles and pain in the past caused by both sides due to political differences. Therefore, it was very important that they came up with top-down remedies. It was essential to open up the procedure bottom-up with the help of civil society and cultural diplomacy in order to prepare or create a stage for people to meet and somehow to get catharsis that they are active citizens and not just bystanders or passive witnesses. And in this respect, culture and common cultural projects supported by both sides and foundations, have helped the Czech-German relationship obtain its own portfolio. For them, it was also a welcome chance to be involved and to achieve something. The citizens may then welcome and be proud of their own achievements. And in this prospect, culture could be useful for industry, business or even for individual entertainment. At the same time could come out as a huge change in the general perception of the Czech-German relationship with culture being an opportunity to remain a blossom.
What are the main activities, events or projects that are currently hosted by the Embassy?
Due to covid it was not really pertinent to come up with cultural events, especially indoor cultural events because some people are still very cautious about the danger of getting infected. In this respect, during Christmas time we organized, here at the Embassy, a recording of a few symphonies played by a Czech violinist as a gift and shared them online with our partners. This year, we're gradually returning to normality, even though we are still doing fewer activities than before COVID. But still, we are from time to time organising readings and debates just to send out a message showing that we are still here. As a matter of fact, we opened an exhibition in the Czech Centre about the modern Czech glass artists.
Are there any important issues that the Embassy of the Czech Republic is committed to and is eager to put in light here in Berlin?
We have always felt committed to human freedom and the human rights agenda. We have some famous NGOs and festivals in the Czech Republic. We also tried to move these to Berlin and to have partnerships here with some already well-established institutions.
My private commitment is to focus on matters concerning German relations. We learned to be very open and honest with each other. It's something to consider because, understandably, people are scared of frankness. We must take advantage of the areas where mutual knowledge and factual acceptance are already given as well as experiment with the way we approach contemporary subjects.