Discussion with Tomáš Prouza
Prague / December 2018 / Juliana Crema
Throughout our first semester here in Prague, we have been fortunate enough to have attended many interesting events, with very prominent members of local think tanks, foundations, and EU representatives. However, I think our discussion with Mr. Tomaš Prouza was the best example of the unique opportunities provided for us through the EPS Programme. This event was organized by my colleague, as she had been in touch with Mr. Prouza and thought that he might be willing and interested in a discussion with us students. On December 18th we met in a cafe, and though he was still decovering from a bad cold, Mr. Prouza made the time to speak with us. He was energetic and enlightening, and was very eager to answer our questions and discuss his opinions with us. Though very accomplished within his political party, he was non-partisan and not opposed to internal critique. This, is something that I found to be very unique for a politician.
Coming from Canada, my knowledge of the inner workings of the political climate in the Czech Republic were very limited. Mr. Prouza helped to change this through his discussion of Czech-EU relations, and the complications and nuances that are plaguing this relationship to date. He was very open in explaining what he thought to be the problems with the relationship,namely disillusionment on both sides, and a distinct failure on the part of the EU Commission to promote the value of the Czech Republic’s involvement in the EU. He went on to elaborate how the EU has consistently been used as a scapegoat in political discourse here, and that there is a lack of a counter-narrative to balance this negativity. Despite the failures of the top-down political system in the Czech Republic and the continuously changing party members and first time politicians, Mr. Prouza maintained a level of positivity that was nothing short of admirable. He was able to articulate the history of these failures, but at the same time look towards the future and the possibility of a stronger, more integrated Czech Republic. One example of a renewed effort towards integration, was the food standards issue being put on the EU Commission’s agenda in order to ensure the same standard of consumer production in the Czech Republic as in Western Europe. This is an issue with historical roots dating back to World War II, and Mr. Prouza recognized the historical importance but also criticized the Czech Republic in its need to build relationships beyond the V4 nations in order to create a stronger presence internationally. The example of the Czech Republic highlights the nuanced nature of EU-Member State relations, and having first-hand experience in this area Mr. Prouza was able to freely articulate just how complicated issues are, and the need for diplomacy and open discussions in order to achieve the goals set out.
During and after our time together Mr. Prouza was gracious and willing, and very inspiring to us as a young group of future diplomats, politicians, researchers, and whatever other career we can imagine. I like to think that he was equally inspired and energized by our youth and our eagerness. Events like this discussion are exactly what I had hoped for from this programme. To have a first-hand conversation with an expert in the field, and for it to be such a positive experience was nothing short of inspiring. At the end of the discussion Mr. Prouza joked about how he would hire us all because he needs young people like us on his team. I think everyone in the room instantly agreed, because we understand the value of having such an experienced and accomplished mentor such as himself. Perhaps at some point in the future our paths will cross again; however, until then, thank you Mr. Prouza for being so willing with your time and energy.
We greatly enjoyed our discussion with you.
Discussion with the Italian Ambassador to the Czech Republic: What life in the foreign service looks like
Prague / 18th December 2017 / Alex Kurki
During my first semester in Prague with the European Politics and Society Programme, I’ve had the pleasure of attending lectures and speeches given by a variety of experts. From former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta to Michael Žantovský (a founding member of the Civic Forum), each speaker provided a unique view on European issues. They reminded me why I find political science fascinating in the first place.
However, of all the seminars and question/answer sessions, the session with Aldo Amati, the Italian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, would be the one I will recall the most fondly in years to come. It was a given that he would have many interesting perspectives on topics relating to Italy and the Czech Republic. He most certainly did. He answered question after question about economic policy, the migrant crisis, and the current political climate in Europe. As time went on, students’ questions became more complex, more convoluted—trying to be the smartest one in the room. To be the one to stump the ambassador. It didn’t happen.
Towards the end of the session, someone asked the Mr. Amati to discuss day-to-day life at the embassy. In addition to his current post in the Czech Republic, he has served at embassies in Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, among others. If there was one person able to answer the question, to provide some sort of semblance of a Platonic, ideal truth about life in the foreign service, it would be him.
Mr. Amati detailed meeting with figures from government, business, and civil society; organizing cultural events; and trying to advocate for his country’s interests in a changing political landscape. This was no surprise.
I was not expecting what came next. The ambassador opened up, briefly telling us about the pros and cons of life in the foreign service. He talked about the logistics of balancing “real life” and work. About the personal strain and sacrifices, having to relocate to a completely new country every three years.
On the other hand, he concluding by remarking that being in the foreign service is “living the fullest life,” and that taking a negative view of his job would be foolish.
Normally a man with Mr. Amati’s credentials would stick to discussing the “easy” topics of his job. Students would listen, take notes, and go home having learned something. However, his candid answers about the less romantic aspects of his profession brought up bigger topics for me to consider.
Where do I want to live? What kind of lifestyle do I want my job to permit? How will I gauge my success in life? What concessions am I willing to make for that success?
These are not the thoughts one would expect to have when leaving an academic discussion. Yet, they are important for students to contemplate in between all the seminar papers, articles, and book reviews.
In conclusion, I think our discussion with Mr. Amati is illustrative of the benefits of this programme: receiving many different perspectives on politics. You never know what new insights you’ll get week-to-week. All are beneficial, but some, of course, are more expected than others.
Last updated 12. 10. 2018.