Lack of English-speaking ministers embarrasses new Czech government

At the end of December, a coalition of five parties formed the new government of the Czech Republic, in response to the defeat suffered by Prime Minister and billionaire Andrej Babiš in the October legislative.

But the new coalition, led by Democrat Petr Fiala, former Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, is already suffering from revelations from the center-right economic media Economic newspaper, according to which the new ministers would have, overall, a poor level of English.

These revelations on the weak linguistic skills of the new political leaders of the country did not fail to raise concerns about the exercise of their responsibilities vis-à-vis foreign politicians, and especially at European level, English remaining the working language of the European Union, and the Czech Republic to assume the rotating presidency of the EU from July.

How to speak with Europe?

It is by seeking to know whether the commitment of the coalition TOGETHERensemble», In Czech), which affirmed “To ensure that each member of the government knows at least one foreign language that he can easily speak”, had been respected, that the Czech media discovered the shortcomings of several ministers occupying key positions.

Out of eighteen ministers, five admitted to having only one “Tourist level”, or a low level of English, and reported relying on translators at European meetings. Other ministers assured that their working English was reliable, such as Jan Lipavský, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose Czech President Miloš Zeman had tried – in vain – to block the appointment on the grounds that he was not academically qualified.

Among those who admitted to having a low level of English are Jana Černochová, the Minister of Defense, who will have to attend the NATO summits, as well as the Minister of Finance, Zbyněk Stanjura, who should chair the Council for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN) of the European Union. However, they both claimed to be fluent in Polish and Russian.

Despite Britain’s exit from the EU, the English language will remain the language of communication and work within the Union, so the inability of Czech ministers to communicate with their peers in this language risks ‘isolate the new government, undermine Czech European policy, and fuel a certain Euroscepticism.

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“We have people who want to be members of Parliament or hold public office and who do not pay enough attention to their language skills”, notes Petr Kaniok, associate professor specializing in European affairs at Masaryk University in Brno. “It’s surprising because more than thirty years have passed since the Velvet Revolution, and people in public office are in their 50s, so they have had enough time to prepare for language training.”, he adds.


Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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