German-Czech relations are very close and marked by high-level contacts reinforced by frequent two-way visits at the highest level; the most recent such visit was that by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel to Prague in October 2018.
The key cornerstones of German-Czech relations are the Treaty on Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation of 27 February 1992 and the German-Czech Declaration on Mutual Relations and their Future Development of 21 January 1997. The essence of the latter is the undertaking by both sides to advance German-Czech relations in a spirit of good neighbourliness and partnership and to disencumber them from political and legal issues stemming from the past. On its 20th anniversary, the then Foreign Ministers, Lubomír Zaorálek and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, signed a joint declaration reaffirming the spirit of the German-Czech Declaration.
The Czech and German Foreign Ministers agreed in 2015 to intensify cooperation between the two countries, both bilaterally and at the European policy level, as part of a strategic dialogue. Nine working groups are to engage in intensive cross-sectoral dialogue in key areas to further enhance mutual trust and deepen the exchange of information and coordination between the two Governments. The inclusive, partnership-based approach also enables the two countries’ parliaments, federal states and regional authorities, civil society actors as well as existing bilateral discussion forums to participate in and enrich the dialogue.
Among Germany’s Länder, Bavaria and Saxony play a particular role in further developing and strengthening German-Czech relations. Saxony maintains a liaison office and Bavaria a representative office in Prague.
Bilateral cooperation is very close on the economic front in particular, but the two countries have differing views on the role that nuclear power and renewable energies should play in supplying energy needs.
Cooperation is especially deep-rooted on foreign and European policy. Czechia and Germany work together intensively on foreign policy issues such as the development of the countries of the Western Balkans, European Neighbourhood Policy, energy security and the protection of human rights. As part of the strategic dialogue, they discuss current European issues. They also engage in exchange on the future of the European Union.
Cultural exchange at all levels is wide-ranging, intensive and successful, also in the case of projects conducted without state involvement.
The German-Czech Future Fund and the German-Czech Discussion Forum
The German-Czech Future Fund is a Prague-based foundation, the foundation for which was laid in 1997 with the German-Czech Declaration. The Future Fund supports non-profit mutual exchange projects in the areas of youth, culture, education, minorities, dialogue forums and publications. Since 1998, it has provided a total of more than 57 million euros to finance over 10,300 projects in fields relating to culture, education, youth, history and social affairs. Further funding of 35 million euros was agreed for the period 2017-2027.
The German-Czech Future Fund celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018. With the theme “What Future Do We Want? German-Czech Reflections”, the Future Fund devoted its anniversary year to a reflection on what has been achieved so far and a discussion on the future of German-Czech relations in a changing world.
In 2017, the Future Fund supported the German-Czech Cultural Spring, which marked the 20th anniversary of the German-Czech Declaration.
The Fund is also used to finance the German-Czech Discussion Forum. At its annual conferences, the Forum addresses current issues in bilateral relations against the backdrop of the two countries’ partnership in the European Union. The annual conferences are held alternately in Germany and Czechia. In 2018, it was Czechia’s turn to host.
Since 2001, the German-Czech Discussion Forum has also included the German-Czech Youth Forum, in which 20 young people from each of the two countries develop and carry out projects relating to bilateral issues.
Judicial and police cooperation
There is intensive cooperation in the judicial and police sectors. An agreement on cooperation between police authorities and border protection authorities made it possible, as early as 2003, to take transnational actions such as joint German-Czech border patrols.
The Joint Centre of German-Czech Police and Customs Cooperation commenced operation in Schwandorf and Petrovice in late 2007. It brings together the technical and language skills of the participating police and customs authorities, and is available round the clock to provide services relating to border-area cooperation. With some 100 staff members, the Joint Centre is today the largest institution of its kind in Europe and the only one with two bureaus.
Since internal air border controls were abolished in 2008, the Schengen regulations apply in full to Czechia. This means that the measures laid down in the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA) relating to requests for mutual assistance in police matters, cross-border surveillance and hot pursuit (cross-border pursuit of suspected persons) have been applicable bilaterally since 2008.
As part of the Hof Dialogue between the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Czech Ministry of the Interior, a ministerial working group and sub-working groups were set up in February 2013 to address the following issues: combating drug crime (crystal meth), amending/updating the existing German-Czech police agreement and cooperation between the Joint Analysis and Strategy Centre for Illegal Migration (GASIM) and the Analytical Centre for Protection of State Borders and Migration (ANACEN), which is now being continued in the form of the German-Czech High-Level Ministerial Working Group on Security Issues.
To further deepen cross-border police cooperation between the two countries and align it better to bilateral relations, a German-Czech police agreement entered into force on 1 October 2016. This agreement establishes a comprehensive intergovernmental basis for police and customs cooperation. The supplementary bilateral agreement to the European Mutual Assistance Convention continues to govern matters relating to judicial legal assistance in criminal cases; however, the new police agreement modifies and supplements some existing provisions.
On 4 April 2013, the two countries signed an agreement on the deployment of emergency medical services in the neighbouring country. Saxony and Bavaria played a central role in putting together the agreement.
Bilateral military relations are good. There are several agreements between the two countries’ Defence Ministries that form the basis for long-term military cooperation at bilateral and international level. The close relations here are reflected in the regular two-way visits and consultations at the level of the Defence Ministers and State Secretaries. There has also been a marked intensification of dialogue at the military leadership level. In addition, there are numerous regular contacts between agencies of the armed forces, also as part of the strategic dialogue between the two countries.
Czechia regards Germany as a strategic partner on security and defence issues and seeks cooperation under the Framework Nations Concept. There are plans for close cooperation within the scope of the Multinational Air Transport Unit. Also, within the framework of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), Czechia is ready to run its own projects, for which it hopes for German involvement. The two countries’ Defence Ministers signed a letter of intent in February 2017 providing for Czechia’s 4th Rapid Deployable Brigade to “work closely” with Germany’s 10th Armoured Division. Since August 2018, Czechia has participate in NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic region with a mechanised infantry company. This contribution is continuing unchanged in the first half of 2019. Czechia also participates in the Multinational Joint Headquarters in Ulm, and the headquarters of the German/Netherlands Corps in Münster has expanded its participation at Multinational Corps Northeast headquarters in Szczecin, Poland.