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Bombing Yugoslavia was the right thing to do The Business Soirée

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Published: 22. 12. 2021
Author: Lubos Palata

Photographic archives of Martin Dvořák



“I was then – and I still remain today – convinced that this was the only way to put an end to the genocide committed by the Milošević regime against the civilian population of Kosovo”, declares still today, years later, Martin Dvořák on the controversial decision to bomb Belgrade, Serbia. He is a diplomat and former UN administrator in Kosovo.

You are one of the new government’s leading foreign policy experts. What changes should we make in this regard and what can we build on from the past?

I think Czech foreign policy has been surprisingly consistent in its fundamentals since the fall of communism in Czechia. Apart from a short episode after Minister Zaorálek took office, we diligently supported the safeguarding of human rights against tyrannical oppression, were members of NATO and the EU, helped the democratic powers in a number of places around the world and we have strived towards better connections with the Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans. What should change is not this fundamental foundation or direction of our foreign policy, but rather we should ensure that we respect these principles in practice and avoid empty promises when there is no real intention to hold them.

You have acquired a wealth of diplomatic expertise during your missions all over the world outside the European Union. How does the Union appear through the prism of New York, Washington, Iraq, Kuwait or Kosovo?

The expertise you speak of has been formed over a fairly long period, during which the EU itself has changed, as has the way it is perceived. The feeling I have from meeting partners in all these places is that the EU is gradually making a name for itself and people are becoming aware of its potential and capabilities. The United States is beginning to view the EU as a more understandable and respected partner in negotiations on key issues of transatlantic cooperation. However, this does not prevent the United States from having other bilateral relations with certain Member States of the Union, mainly those which have greater influence over the EU. The Balkans look to Europe for an example and a sort of salvation; they expect it to provide this most delicate region of the Old Continent with material aid and a path towards democratic standards. Local governments claim to be ready to undertake reforms that would allow them to access this imaginary European home, but they often come up against boundaries set by tradition and the political evolution of each country. The EU has also proven to be an attractive partner for the Middle East. In Kuwait, I witnessed on several occasions an opinion presented by an EU representative being taken more seriously than if the subject was addressed by one of the individual member states. We, Czech diplomats, found the EU support very beneficial, to which my colleagues can also attest.

Shortly after the end of the conflict in Kosovo, you were administrator of one of its regions close to the Albanian border. What memories do you have of that time and how do you assess the current situation in Kosovo and the Western Balkans?

I have fond memories of that time, even though the conditions there were often very cruel and some experiences very visceral. But my work had meaning, I helped people as well as the region of which I was the “administrator”. During the first months of my mission, my main objective was to find housing for as many people as possible in a region two thirds of which were burned by the Serbs before their retreat. Standing on a hill overlooking the village I worked in and counting the roofs of the recently rebuilt houses was very satisfying. Forming municipal councils and participating in the resumption of life in decimated villages was a very enriching learning experience. I realized how similar the situations are when a society moves from a non-democratic system to a free and democratic system, even if it happens in very different parts of the world. Kosovo, as well as other countries in the region, are still very eager to be part of Europe. The slow path to this goal, along with unmet expectations and broken promises, is slowly making them more and more impatient and opening the door for other parts of the world to influence them. I see a certain risk there.

Should the EU then add the Western Balkans as soon as possible, or do you understand the restraint the Union is showing in further increasing its numbers, based on your experience in this region as well as that of the EU with the current Polish and Hungarian governments?

I think I have already answered this question to some extent. The Western Balkans have been a priority of our foreign policy efforts for many years, we have long-term plans, goals and strategies there, as well as partners with whom we have experience of dealing. On the other hand, we must take into account the slowness with which local countries assimilate the norms of functioning of a democratic society, which explains why some EU countries are hesitant to integrate Balkan countries into the structures. of the union. We therefore find ourselves faced with a dilemma: should we insist on strict compliance with all conditions and, in doing so, delay the process of integrating the Balkans into the EU, while running the risk that the growing frustrations of the countries local authorities be exploited by states that view the EU as an adversary?

There are still heated discussions among the Czech people today about whether NATO should have bombed Serbia during the Kosovo conflict in order to make it retreat. What was your opinion at the time and has it changed over the years?

He does not have. I was then – and still am today – convinced that this was the only way to put an end to the genocide committed by the Milošević regime against the civilian population of Kosovo at the time. Walking through mass graves, seeing the remains of dismembered bodies that Serbian paramilitary units left in their wake, is something that still haunts me today.

Your other great diplomatic experience was New York. What do you learn as a diplomat in this multicultural megalopolis and focal point of global politics and affairs?

The Consulate General of New York, of which I had the honor of serving as director for five years, deals primarily with issues of passports and visas, economic diplomacy and the expatriate agenda that goes hand in hand with daily management. of the National Hall of Bohemia. But of course there are also relationships with officials at the UN headquarters in New York and frequent visits by senior Czech officials. The opportunity to meet a wide range of fascinating people from around the world and observe how they perform in such roles has been an invaluable lesson.

You also served as the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Kuwait, a country heavily dependent on oil. How do such countries view EU and Western efforts to stop global warming by reducing the use of fossil fuels? Don’t they see it as an attack on their prosperity? Is the Arab world ready to live in an era without oil?

Kuwait, along with other Gulf countries, is positioning itself in favor of reducing the use of fossil fuels and taking responsibility for solving global environmental challenges, at least verbally. On the other hand, it is completely understandable that the actual implementation of these measures is progressing rather slowly, which, to be fair, does not only concern governments heavily dependent on oil production. I consider it very positive that even countries in this part of the world realize the urgency of this issue and want to participate in its solution.


Martin Dvořák

Born November 11, 1965 in Prague, graduated from the Prague University of Economics.

After school he worked as an economist in the East Bohemian meat industry, was reassigned to the technical department due to disagreements with the communist regime, and then worked in production.

In the municipal elections of 1990 and 1994 he was elected mayor of Hradec Králové.

Between 1999 and 2002 he participated in the United Nations Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), where he served as administrator of Istog and Gyakovä for 28 months.

Since July 2003, he has worked in Iraq as an expert in the transitional coalition administration.

From January 2005 to August 2009, he served as commercial advisor at the Embassy in Washington.

In 2009 he was appointed Director of the Department of Bilateral Economic Relations and Export Support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. He remained in this position until August 2012, when he was appointed consul general to the United States.

Since September 2017, he has been the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Kuwait and Qatar.

Speaks English, Russian and German, partly Polish.

He is married and has daughters Dora and Alžběta and a son Adam. He loves theater, music, literature and sport.


Martin Dvořák had a truly rich diplomatic career. What is the moment that is imprinted in his mind? “It’s hard to choose just one,” he muses. “But the launch of the first Czech EU presidency in 2009 should be part of it. The same unfortunately applies to the dissolution of the Czech government at this majestic moment in our participation in European history. Handing over the nomination papers to the emirs of Kuwait and Qatar was probably the pinnacle of my diplomatic career.

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