President Zeman rejects appointment of new prime minister as foreign minister

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Czech President Milos Zeman said on Friday he had rejected the nomination of a foreign minister in the new cabinet because of the candidate’s reservations towards Israel and towards cooperation with other members of a European alliance. central.

Zeman said in a statement he was ready to appoint the rest of the cabinet, but the rejection paves the way for a legal battle with new prime minister Petr Fiala, leader of the center-right Civic Democrats.

Fiala backed the candidate for Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky of the Pirate Liberal Party, which is part of the Fiala coalition that won the elections in October.

Zeman, who is not the chief executive under the constitution but has frequently lobbied cabinets, said Lipavsky lacked qualifications.

Zeman said he rejected Lipavsky’s “left behind” stance on Israel and the Central European group of Visegrad, whose Polish and Hungarian members are at daggers drawn with European partners over the rule of law.

The Czech Republic maintains close ties with Israel, and Fiala’s coalition is committed to upholding this line.

Lipavsky signed a letter alongside more than 400 other EU lawmakers in February to protest Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.

He opposed the move of the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is one of Zeman’s goals that would put the Czechs on the side of the United States in a move that has drawn widespread criticism from the community. international. The Czechs have so far opened a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

The Pirates criticized Visegrad’s partner Hungary for what the party leader called “authoritarian tendencies”.

They also criticized Zeman’s affinity with China and Russia, although Zeman did not mention these positions in his statement.

Under the constitution, the president appoints ministers appointed by the prime minister.

Fiala said he would take the case to court.

“It is necessary that the Constitutional Court settle once and for all the question of the authorities by appointing the new members of the government,” he said on Twitter, adding that he would announce his next decision on Monday.

Fiala’s cabinet is expected to be appointed before Christmas, but it was not clear whether the row over Lipavsky could affect the timeline.

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