Czech President apologises to Serbia

At a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Alexandar Vučič, Czech President Miloš Zeman apologised to Serbia for the Nato bombing in 1999 - as a purely personal gesture, he said. Although the Czech Republic did not take part in the attacks, under then Prime Minister Zeman it did grant US fighter jets the right to fly over the Czech Republic. The nation's press is nonplussed.

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Seznam Zprávy (CZ) /

Odd in several ways

Seznam Zprávy is completely taken aback by the move:

“Zeman's own government agreed to the bombing in 1999. He himself didn't seem traumatised at the time, because he didn't dare oppose the mainstream in the Alliance. Secondly, the apology is odd in that the Czechs themselves didn't really bomb anyone, and Zeman can't apologise for Nato. And thirdly, an apology from the head of state to another country is a pretty serious matter, especially when it pertains to the use of military force. One would expect such things to be briefly discussed with the government, or at least with the foreign minister, beforehand.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Zeman pursuing his own line in foreign policy again

Zeman's behaviour contradicts the constitution, Český rozhlas criticises:

“The privatisation of Prague's foreign policy has taken an absurd turn. In the past, Zeman repeatedly questioned Western sanctions against Russia after the occupation of Crimea, although the Czech government officially endorsed them. ... Foreign Minister Kulhánek immediately stated that the apology to Serbia was the president's personal initiative, not the official position of the Czech state. However, that only underlined the absurdity of the whole thing.”

Právo (CZ) /

A meaningful apology

Právo welcomes the initiative:

“Nato's operation at the time was officially meant to end the ethnic cleansing against the Kosovo Albanians. ... But the price in blood for that was very high. Thousands of innocent Serb civilians had to pay it. In addition, a number of protagonists of the Kosovo Liberation Army were guilty of war crimes, for which they were indicted by the tribunal in The Hague. ... After almost a quarter of a century, the time has come to fill in the trenches of hatred, even if that proves very difficult. Because it's important for the future. It's from this perspective that Zeman's apology takes on its significance.”