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Czech Republic: More than a land of stories
October 30, 2018, 9:28 am
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H.E. Martin Dvorák, Ambassador of Czech Republic to Kuwait

Czech Republic and the State of Kuwait have enjoyed long and cordial relations, said the Ambassador of Czech Republic, His Excellency Martin Dvořák. “Our relations with Kuwait dates back to 1963 when the Czechoslovak Embassy first opened here, making us one of the first then socialist countries to have a presence in Kuwait.

In 1993, the embassy was officially changed to the Czech Embassy, following intricate negotiations between the Czech and Slovak sides,” said the ambassador during a recent media interview.

“We are especially proud of the efforts made by Czechoslovakia during the 1990/91 invasion of Kuwait, when members of the Czechoslovak anti-chemical unit made significant contributions to the effort to liberate and rebuild Kuwait.

In fact, the Czech Embassy in Kuwait just recently had the honor of receiving a delegation of 11 Czech war veterans who took part in the 1991 Gulf War, who were invited to Kuwait by the Kuwaiti government as guests of honor on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the liberation of the country.

“Bilateral relations between our two countries have remained excellent and therefore very quiet over the years. Since there are no mutual tensions or problems, our focus is on promoting business and cultural exchanges between the two countries,” said the envoy.

The Czech Embassy has been working with the National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature (NCCAL) to promote cultural exchanges and has met with several Kuwaiti partners in the field of art and culture to discuss possible performances that feature Kuwaiti and Czech artists and musicians.

Elaborating on this, the ambassador said, “Kuwait is home to a very interesting performer named Ghazi Al-Mulaifi who is currently preparing a project which features the bahri, or traditional music of pearl divers, but with a modern twist that infuses current sounds and positive energy into the performance. Al-Mulaifi actually studied in New York, and by coincidence one of his professors in New York was a friend of mine, so when I first arrived in Kuwait he was one of the first people I wrote to and met.

“We are now organizing a performance with the members of Ghazi Al-Mulaifi Ensemble and a Czech music group, the ‘Iva Marešová’s Band’, which is also doing something similar by blending modern and traditional music. The concert that features the performance of these artists as a way to promote cross-cultural exchanges, cooperation and understanding is planned to be held at the Abdel Redha Theater in Salmiya on 29 October.

“This concert is just one project of many that we have in mind. Music has the ability to connect people everywhere, and you don’t even necessarily have to know the language to understand the message. Another project that we have already started to prepare, with great support from NCCAL, involves presenting a symphony orchestra in Kuwait from the Czech Republic in January of next year.”

On the promotion of business ties between the two countries, Ambassador Dvořák emphasized that since he took charge the embassy has organized two business missions. “One was focused on spas and health, which is an easy thing to promote in Kuwait because many Kuwaitis I have spoken to, including His Highness the Amir, are aware of or have been to spas in the Czech Republic.

“What makes spas so special in the Czech Republic is the fact that we have excellent water and natural resources, such as healing springs. Combined with a commitment to health education and experienced masseuses, doctors, and professional staff, our spas are all very professional and can make your stay very relaxing.

Of course, the environment is a bonus because the weather is nice, and the people are friendly. These spas are mostly in Western Bohemia and North Bohemia, and they specialize in physiotherapy and other specialty areas. “I would like to add that besides spas we have medical facilities that are of the highest caliber, so the potential for medical tourism to the Czech Republic is also a possibility.

The possibility of bringing more Czech doctors to Kuwait is also something we can look into, as Kuwait and the Czech Republic do have experience over the years in exchanging medical knowledge. “We have also conducted a certain amount of work to promote Czech food producers, and we believe they can be helpful and successful in Kuwait.

The Czech Republic grows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and meat production, dairy and cheese are also major industries that we can collaborate with Kuwait on.” Pointing to another industry that the Czech Republic is famous for, the envoy said: “We are well-known all over the world for our glass industry. For example, Swarovski, is a company founded by Daniel Swarovski, who was born in Bohemia in the Czech Republic. Many famous glassmakers are based in the Czech Republic or have Czech roots.

Recently, on a visit to the Amiri Diwan, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the chandelier there was made of Czech glass, and the same can be said of the chandelier in the White House. Here in Kuwait, we are examining the ways in which we can continue to promote Czech glass, which is some of the finest in the world. “I also believe that the field of Information Technology is yet another area in which the Czech Republic can provide some assistance to Kuwait. Today, there is an increasingly robust tech sector in the Czech Republic which focuses on IT solutions and technologies, software, and more.

This is another area where we could be good partners with Kuwait, and in fact we are currently working on a number of ventures with Kuwaiti parties. “Companies from the Czech Republic can also play a role in assisting Kuwait in the oil and gas sector.

For instance, we manufacture solar power systems that focus on smaller integrated units, such as pipelines and remote-control management systems that are far away from the electricity grid and need their own supply of electricity.  “In addition, we have companies which manufacture coating for PV panels, remote sensing technologies, and these are all integrated, so I think these things could be successful in the oil and gas industry here.

We are also very focused on waste management and environmentally friendly solutions, and as Kuwait has soil rehabilitation efforts underway, we have competent companies in this field who could be successful in helping Kuwait in this effort. There is plenty of new potential for business collaboration, but the area of tourism is something I am very interested in, said Ambassador Dvořák: “Not only for Kuwaiti tourists to come to the Czech Republic, but also for Czech tourists to visit Kuwait.

I appreciate the fact that Kuwait is becoming more attractive for tourists, and I believe there is huge potential for Kuwait in this particular field. People from the Czech Republic love to travel, and Kuwaiti’s love to travel as well, and the best way for people to see and understand other cultures is to get them to visit new places, so this is an area where we can create better channels of cooperation and understanding, simply through travel.”

Ambassador Dvořák was born in 1956 in Prague, the capital of former Czechoslovakia and now the capital of the Czech Republic. He graduated with honors from the Faculty of Finance at the Prague School of Economics in 1982 and was actively involved in Czech political and academic life during the 1990s.

He served as Mayor of the City of Hradec Králové for two-terms between 1990 and 1998. In the summer of 1999, he was invited by the European Council to participate in the United Nations Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), where he served as administrator and headed local authorities for the next 28 months. He has described his experiences during this period in his book, ‘Kosovo, Under My Skin’, which was published simultaneously in Czech and English in 2001, with a foreword written by the then Czech President Václav Havel. Translations of the book into Albanian and Slovak languages followed soon after.

From July of 2003, he worked in Iraq as one of the Czech experts helping the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Basra establish local government in the provinces. He was later invited to join the administrative team of the Council for International Coordination (CIC) in Baghdad, where he worked as Deputy Director of the Donor Coordination Department.

He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic in 2004 and was immediately deputed to serve as an observer in Ukraine for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). From January 2005 to August 2009, he worked as a business counselor at the Czech Embassy in Washington DC, following which he was appointed as Director of the Department of Bilateral Economic Relations and Export Support at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

He remained in this position until August 2012, when he was appointed Consul General to the United States of America in New York. He finished this mission in July 2017 and in September of that year became the Czech Ambassador to Kuwait and Qatar.  Note: parts of this article are based on a previous interview with the Ambassador that was originally published in the July-September 2018 issue of The Kuwaiti Digest. The use of the original interview for this article was made possible with the kind permission of the Kuwaiti Digest.

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