The following is an interview with Czech Ambassador to Mongolia Jiri Brodsky about the bilateral relation and cooperation between Mongolia and the Czech Republic.
You’ve been serving as the ambassador of the Czech Republic in Mongolia for two years now. Has your impression of Mongolia changed over this period, particularly from the expectations you had before coming to the country?
I’d been serving as a diplomat for 14 years prior to coming to Mongolia. I spent 10 years of this time working in the foreign policy department of the office of former Czech President Vaclav Klaus. I came with the president to Mongolia when he visited in 2006. Compared to then, the country’s economy has significantly grown and found its path toward democracy and market economy. Just like Mongolia, not everything was perfect in our country, but it’s good to compare things from then to now. I see a positive trend for everything in Mongolia in the future.
The first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Masaryk, once said, “If our democracy has its faults, then we must overcome these faults, not overcome democracy.” During the last two years, I’ve been serving as ambassador, I realized that Mongolia is a friendly country that preserved its independence and customs, and a country with beautiful landscapes. Mongolia and the Czech Republic will celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations next year. Thanks to our many years of friendly relations, Mongolians and Czech people have become very close and are very interactive with one another.
As the Czech ambassador, what are your plans for expanding social and economic partnerships between the two countries?
This year, we will continue state visits between our state heads and consul meetings and we’ve become ready to sign readmissions, social security and education and cultural agreements.
Personally, I pay a lot of attention to developing trade relations because currently, the annual trade turnover between our two countries is around 16 million USD, which is very low compared to our opportunities. The Czech Republic conducts 83 percent of its foreign trade with developed countries, of which 75 percent are European Union countries. We want to reach Mongolia and other Asian countries. Every year, we organize business meetings in Mongolia together with the Economic Chamber of the Czech Republic and the number of interested Czech companies is increasing every year. This meeting will be held in June this year. We working to not only support Mongolia's development in energy, agriculture, food production, construction, mining, and infrastructure, but also bring Czech brands such as Skoda Auto, Tatra, Pilsner Urquell, and Tesla.
Let’s talk about the education sector now. Mongolians can study in the Czech Republic for free of charge. Our government also offers 12 types of scholarships annually as well as three quotas for a summer course in the Czech Republic for Mongolians. Regrettably, one of the biggest problems is that selected Mongolian students are declining their scholarship or don’t contact their school in the last minute, which is like throwing their scholarship into the garbage bin.
Can you introduce some of the projects and programs the embassy is carrying out? The Czech Republic has been working closely with Mongolia in the geology sector. Which other areas have the potential for collaboration?
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Mongolian geology sector, which is happening this year, the Mongolian minister of mining and heavy industry invited Czech geologists to attend the celebratory reception in October. Right now, we’re contacting geologists and making the attendance list. Czech geologists are conducting important mining and pollution reduction project. Czech foresters are also doing a really important project at Shar River.
This year’s development projects are directed to introducing Czech technology to dairy production and supplying special chimneys that can improve the air quality in Ulaanbaatar. The Institute of Animal Science of Prague’s project to relocate horses is continuing for the ninth year. The institute has expanded its operations and as the next phase of the project, it is trying to protect rare and endangered animals in the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area. The Prague City Council has decided to make a donation to this project. A portion of every ticket sold to people visiting the Institute of Animal Science of Prague (approximately 1.5 million people see the institute annually) will be donated.
The Czech Republic also completed a low-cost feasibility study for an ice hockey rink. We’re hoping that the Ulaanbaatar administration will use this world-recognized Czech technology for ice hockey.
In the future, in relation to successfully implemented Czech development and cooperation projects, we hope to cooperate in forestry, agriculture, environment (especially aquaculture), urban planning, infrastructure, and civil aviation. We plan to get financing for these projects from the European Union and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The embassy’s workload must have increased since opening a new visa application center in Ulaanbaatar. Moreover, the Czech Embassy is also accepting applications for the employment cards for 1,000 Mongolians under the Czech government’s decision. Studies show that there are over 10,000 Mongolians studying or working in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, the number of Mongolians interested in going to your country is increasing. Is it possible to increase the quota for Mongolian workers?
We can’t deny the significance of the opening of the VFS Center for accepting applications for Schengen short-term visa in Mongolia. Mongolians can now apply for a visa via the internet without facing the risk of encountering a fake intermediary. There’s no limit to the number of applications that can be submitted.
As for the employment card, the Czech government makes decisions for it. If the government decides to increase the quota, our embassy will increase our human resources. By doing so, we can enhance our capacity and register over 300 applicants for the employment card via phone.
From my point of view, it’s necessary to provide Mongolians the opportunity to work in their home country using Czech investment and smart solutions. For example, Czech Khaanzaa Company built a wastewater treatment facility and Finep Company built an apartment in Orkhon Province. For these kinds of projects and development work, it would be more efficient to involve Mongolians.
Are there any projects that are ongoing since the previous ambassador’s time?
Most of our work is focused on public diplomacy. We’re also focusing on promoting Czech cultures in Mongolia. Our embassy is resuming its campaign to screen Czech films once every two months with Mongolian subtitles at iCinema. We will get two spots for the European Day event this year too. Moreover, we’re preparing for very nice events which will coincide with two important historical events for the Czech Republic.
Ambassadors are like managers. The work I’m doing in Mongolia is similar to works I did previously in Denmark. I have to lead people, decide operations of the embassy, send relevant information back to the Czech Republic, develop relationship and communications with Mongolians, and strengthen relations with other ambassadors and representatives of international organizations here in Mongolia.
For me, it’s important to pay attention to our embassy’s exterior appearance, manage our staff members, and ensure our guests are comfortable when they visit. In that sense, we cooperated with owners of Sky Plaza this year and rebuilt our security office so that people who are coming to receive consular services don’t wait outside. The rooms in our embassy have changed slightly too. Our political department moved to Sky Plaza and our consular department will be at the current building. We did all of this so that the new ambassador, who will come in a year-and-a-half, can work without any difficulty. In other words, this is my way of relaying the good projects I started.