The Czech Republic has a new president: Former NATO general Petr Pavel was sworn in as head of state on Thursday. The 61-year-old took the oath of office in a joint session of both chambers of parliament in Prague Castle. Many people watched the ceremony on outdoor screens. The army fired a 21-gun salute. In the runoff election at the end of January, the career changer in politics clearly beat the billionaire populist former Prime Minister Andrej Babis with 58.3 percent of the votes.
Pavel took over from his predecessor Milos Zeman (78). From 2015 to 2018 he headed the NATO Military Committee as General. He stands for a pro-European and pro-Western change of course at the head of state. Zeman, on the other hand, had advocated a rapprochement with China - and until the Ukraine war also with Russia.
In his inaugural speech, Pavel pledged further support to the government in Kiev. It is important that Central Europe speaks with one voice on this point. "In the end, we're helping ourselves," emphasized the ex-military man. He referred to the Czech Republic's own experience in August 1968 when Warsaw Pact troops invaded what was then Czechoslovakia. The last Soviet soldiers left the country in 1991. The Czech Republic has belonged to NATO since 1999 and to the EU since 2004.
Kiev trip announced
In the Czech Republic, the President has predominantly representative tasks. But he is also the supreme commander of the armed forces and appoints the government. He can also refer laws back to Parliament once. The term of office is five years. The neighboring German country has around 10.5 million inhabitants.
Pavel announced that he would visit all neighboring countries within the first 100 days of office - starting with Slovakia. In April he is planning a trip to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, together with Slovak President Zuzana Caputova. In his speech he campaigned for solidarity with the weakest in society. He wants to stand up for values such as dignity, decency and respect. To those who didn't vote for him, he said, "We should talk more about what unites us."
Prague Castle on the Hradcany is the official residence of the President. But Pavel wants to work in his current office for some time for fear of hidden listening devices. "I will certainly not work there (at the castle) before a thorough search of the premises," he told the news magazine "Respekt".
Brief CV of Pavel, in Czech Website of the Office of the President, in Czech