MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome at the press conference at the occasion of the official visit of the Secretary of State of the United States Mike Pompeo. I’d like to give the floor first to the Prime Minister of the Czech Government Andrej Babis.
PRIME MINISTER BABIS: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, dear minister. I’m really happy that we finally get a chance to meet here in Prague, because we planned it in the past. We actually met for the first time in 2015 when I was the minister of finance in the Czech Government. And we both come from the business world so we understand each other. I’m really glad that the Secretary of State, during his trip around Europe, started in Prague in the Czech Republic, and you’re here for the first time, that’s unbelievable. And he came with his wife to visit our beautiful country, beautiful city, safe country, I must say. And many people from Europe, from other countries of Europe, come to our country to live here because they feel good in our country, and we’re proud of that. So I’m happy that the Secretary of State of the United States is here, as already the third minister of the United States. And of course, the United States is the main ally and strategic partner of the Czech Republic, and I’m really happy that we’re managing to maintain this high frequency of contact. I visited the United States twice in my function. I also had a visit to President Trump and I’m happy that we have a very above-standard relations.
Our main topic of discussion revolved around trade, trade relations, but of course, also the trade between the EU and the United States. We have a huge potential when it comes to trade relations, and in terms of the United States and the Czech Republic, last year we increased the trade turnover by 6 percent, so we got to some 9.3 billion United States of turn-around – turnover of trade. And we’re in top five, so I’m really happy for that. And I must say, unfortunately – and I’m speaking on behalf of the whole of Europe – unfortunately, we have not completed yet a trade agreement, and I believe it’s very important that we come back to that.
I also informed the Secretary of State about the V4 grouping and how it works, and it looks like we have the same opinion on that. And we could be more active. We have Commissioner Hahn who’s very active in V4, and V4 could help. The minister will then visit Slovenia as well and there’s a new prime minister, a very active prime minister. You will also visit Austria – Sebastian Kurz – we have very similar views on many issues in Europe. So Europe is not just France and Germany; it’s also V4 and small countries, which may be smaller, but can come up with good ideas as well. So we’re ready – ready to be here and to negotiate and to talk to you.
We can cooperate in science and development. We have great scientists that are also active in the United States. We have Martin Tolar, for example, who is one of the leaders when it comes to searching for drugs for Alzheimer’s. We have Gilead in California. We have Professor Holy who started a whole area of research. So we have excellent scientists and I see a great potential. We talked about possible cooperation when it comes to coronavirus. We have Novavax company that bought a company close to Prague and they want to produce vaccines.
So that’s what we talked about. We also talked about defense cooperation. I think it works well in that area as well. So again, I have to say that we’re happy that you are here, that you started your tour in Prague. In the morning I was in the radio and they told me that it’s for logistical reasons, but I don’t know. I think that Slovenia is closer, so we’re proud that you came here and this is the first destination. I hope you will have some time to see Prague as well. It would be a pity not to visit Charles Bridge because it’s empty, really. Normally, Charles Bridge is full of people over summer. So I think that we had a good discussion and we understand each other, we know what we want to cooperate on. So once again, thank you very much.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) And now the floor goes to Mike Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s great to finally be here with you. I’m saddened that the Charles Bridge isn’t more crowded. We’re going to get it more crowded. We’re going to work together and get both of our economies back going again. It’s great to be here as America’s Secretary of State to celebrate all the victories for freedom and democracy with the Czech people. It was 75 years ago, May 6th, that American troops, led by one of my heroes, General George Patton – I used to see him out of my barracks window when I was a cadet, at least his statue – who liberated western Czechoslovakia. It was a mighty victory against Nazi brutality, and it was my honor to commemorate that yesterday in Pilsen. It was great to see all the people out there as well.
Our support for Czech freedom and for the Czech people continued in the 20th century, culminating in the Velvet Revolution. And when you finally cast off the last chains of the Soviet Union, we stood with your new democracy and will continue always to do that. The Nazi and Soviet oppression of the last century have made the Czech people keenly aware of how authoritarian regimes crush those that they rule over, and that understanding of history shines through in our outstanding defense of freedom today. And we talked about our security relationship. It’s a great – a great team. We had a wonderful discussion; it was lively. We both acknowledged how Russia strives to corrupt our democracies and shatter the Western Alliance. I am very confident that freedom will prevail.
I thank the prime minister, too, for his commitment to upholding the NATO Wales pledge, and we also discussed further strengthening the alliance through military modernization. We want to commend the Czech Republic’s choice of American hard work to replace Soviet-era defense equipment and reduce dependence on Russian gear. This choice will greatly and closely align the Czech Republic with NATO defense capabilities. I also raised the importance of choosing the right partner for building the new reactor at Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant. Partnering with Russian and Chinese state-owned companies will, in fact, undermine the Czech Republic’s national sovereignty.
This is a great place, the Czech Republic. Like many other free nations on this continent and around the world, it’s begun to see the challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party to our hard-won liberties, and you’ve taken the sovereign decision to support and protect your people. In May of last year, 32 nations came together right here in Prague to sign the Prague Proposals, as you reaffirmed the commitment with our joint declaration on 5G security this past May, and another big celebration coming up in the fall.
Your personal leadership has helped set the course for more than 30 nations and territories to become 5G clean countries. The tide is turning – there’s no doubt about that – against untrusted networks and toward the values of free nations. And you have truly led in that regard. By investing, too, in the Three Seas Initiative and implementing effective investment screening, countries of this region can grow key industries and their economies without sacrificing their sovereignty. And as I’ll convey in my remarks to the senate, we have a proud partnership for freedom and we must continue to work together.
Finally, you’ve been a phenomenal security partner in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Syria. You have been a great aid to protecting democracy around the world. Our soldiers appreciate it and our President appreciates it. We’re proud to have you as a strong and growing ally. Thank you again, Mr. Prime Minister, for welcoming me to Prague and I look forward to coming back when I have a chance to see just a little bit more of the city. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. And we have questions now. The Czech TV, the first question.
QUESTION: Jakub Szanto, Czech TV. You mentioned Russian and Chinese influence in the area. Is one of the main goals of your tour in the area of these four countries strengthening a resolve or maybe building some kind of an ad hoc alliance against growing Chinese and Russian influence? And second, could you please elaborate a little bit more about the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, how American involvement might get into that?
(Via interpreter) And a question for you, Prime Minister, a similar question. You have talked about the Russian and Chinese influence in this region here in Central Europe. Have you talked about any measures or any changes in the Czech foreign policy in this context? And the second question, the cooperation in the area of nuclear energy – what is the status in this area between the two countries? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll take those both together. So my mission here is to come to say thanks to a nation that is like-minded about freedom and democracy, and whose people are like-minded about freedom and democracy. I’ve heard this narrative that somehow this is the United States against China. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a choice the Czech people are going to make. I am confident when faced with the decision about authoritarianism or democracy and freedom, I am very confident in what they’ll choose. I know that – had a long history of choosing that. Each time they have been under threat, they have said, “No, we don’t want that here.” The Czech – the people of the Czech Republic want – they want to live their lives.
Today I was with some of your amazing entrepreneurs, Czech entrepreneurs, doing remarkable work on the global stage, right. Coming from small businesses, what I did when I came – before I came to politics, running a small business, growing their company, investing across the world, investing in America – those are the kind of things that we value. And so when you see regimes like the Chinese Communist Party, they know that’s, in the end, going to crush them. They appreciate that it’s going to deny them freedom. We see what’s happening in Hong Kong to entrepreneurs. That’s the model that the Chinese Communist Party brings when they show up. That’s not what the people of the Czech Republic ultimately are going to choose. I’m very confident in that.
So I came here today just to remind the Czech people that we – we’re – we stand prepared to support you. If those countries try to bully you, we’ll be right there alongside of you because we know that when you’re successful, when your democracy flourishes, the United States will benefit too from these truly close set of relationships we have built out over decades.
Look, I don’t want to spend too much time focused on the power plant specifically, other than this: We think there’s a great opportunity to increase energy security for the Czech Republic and for this entire region, whether that’s liquified natural gas or a power plant that has a model that is a western model – one that will survive, one that will sustain. Allowing some of those other nations to build out your energy infrastructure imposes real risk and real cost to your sovereignty. And so we certainly talked about how America and our American private sector stands ready to provide an opportunity, a path forward that your – the Czech Republic will ultimately make about how to make sure you get the energy you need at a price that makes good sense, distributed in a way that is important for the Czech Republic, and done on a business model that will be sustainable and free with a rule of law and property rights, transparent contracting, all the things that you get when you partner with fellow Western nations. That’s the objective, and I think the Prime Minister and others share this view of the way the Czech Republic ought to be built. It’ll last an awful lot longer and there will be a lot of freedom attached to it, which is of immeasurable value.
PRIME MINISTER BABIS: (Via interpreter) Well, on my side, I would like to say that concerning 5G and cybersecurity here, the Czech Republic in fact became a leader in Europe and we organized the conference where we discussed this issue. And it was also mentioned in the U.S. Senate; they talked about the Prague Protocol. And I invited the Secretary of State to come to the second conference that is taking place in September. I know it’s just before the elections, but we would welcome, we would very much wish if the Secretary of State could come or if a keynote speaker from the U.S. could come and give a speech at this conference. We are a sovereign country and I do not see any substantial threat here, but of course, we are very prudent.
Concerning China, I have been criticizing China because they had not invested in the Czech Republic in the way I would imagine they should. There are something like 2,500 U.S. investors here in the Czech Republic who gave jobs to more than 55,000 people here in the Czech Republic. So the U.S. investment is enormous here in the Czech Republic. And I also paid compliment to the Secretary of State. I looked at the balance of trade with China, and I know that they reduced the difference. They reduced and we still have very high trade with China, and China still plays a very big role in our foreign trade, and we have to check it why we are not more successful in the trade with China, why we are not better, why we don’t have it more balanced. But of course we, when it comes to China and Russia, we follow the same line as the European Union. We share the same opinion as our allies. But we don’t have a major problem here.
Concerning the nuclear energy, of course we see the interest on the American side, of course. But now we are just notifying the EU. There are some rules to be respected. In the past already I appreciated and hoped that the American producer will be able to produce the modular blocks, more flexible reactors that would be more effective and more efficient. So the tender is under preparation. The investor is a Czech company, CEZ. But for us, of course, there is strategic cooperation that is important.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. And now the question on the other side. Matt Lee, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hello. Good afternoon. Mr. Secretary, good to be back out on the road with you again after a many-months break. Yesterday – I wanted to follow up on my colleague’s question. Yesterday at the – in Pilsen, before the brewery, in your remarks at the monument, you talked about the risk of authoritarianism in Beijing and Moscow, and you also mentioned Tehran. But I’m wondering if you see an equal threat or risk, even though it is domestic or localized in nature, from what’s – the situation in Belarus, which is much closer to here than Moscow and Beijing, and if you have any specific concerns about the situation in Belarus post the election.
And then secondly, and I – you’ll have to forgive me for this – but I just wanted to ask you about the IG report yesterday on the Saudi arms sales. As you know, well know, it exonerated you, or cleared you of doing anything improper, but it also mentioned that the State Department was not fully considering the civilian casualties as a – when it considers arms sales in this. And I’m wondering if you believe that that’s the case, that you’re not. And if it is, if this is a legitimate observation from the IG’s office, what you will do in the future to make sure that those considerations are used when you evaluate these sales. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Do you have a question for the prime minister, too?
QUESTION: Well, I would like to hear his thoughts on Belarus.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Okay. So let me answer your second question first, and then I’ll talk about why we’re here. So your second question was about an IG report. I apologize; this is an internal matter. But I’ll spend two seconds. I wasn’t exonerated. The State Department was exonerated. We had United States senators impugn the integrity of Foreign Service officers, suggesting they had done something unlawful. It was outrageous then, it’s outrageous for them to continue to make those claims. We did everything by the book, we complied with the law – it’s what the State Department OIG found as well – and I’m proud of the work that my team did. And we got to a really good outcome. And we have prevented the loss of civilian lives. So as for the statement that was in the IG report, it’s totally unfounded. We were very thoughtful about how we reviewed the risks. We did it right. It was a careful process. All voices were heard inside of the State Department. Of course we want to protect civilian lives. We want to protect civilian lives in Yemen, we want to protect civilian lives in Riyadh and in Abu Dhabi, and in Dubai, and the decision that we made absolutely did that.
So I knew this is how this report would end, in spite of all that some of you have written. I knew it because I knew that our team had done this well.
To Belarus. We watched an election that we were very concerned about, wasn’t held in a way that was free and fair. We care about that because we care deeply about the Belarusian people. Just as I talked about in the Czech Republic, we want the people of Belarus to have the freedoms that they’re demanding, that they think are in their best interests. We watched the protest. We urge that these – that the nonviolent protesters be protected and not harmed. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to do that. And we will continue to speak about the risks to the Belarusian people. We want them to have freedom in the same way that we want people all across the world – you mentioned in Iran, you mentioned in Russia, you mentioned in China. We want them each to have the same set of opportunities and freedoms. We’ll continue to try our best to deliver those to the people of Belarus as well.
PRIME MINISTER BABIS: (Via interpreter) Concerning Belorussia, it was shocking to see what’s happening there. I could not imagine that something like that could happen in Europe, so close to us. It’s scandalous. And I’m – expect that the European Union will issue not only declarations, but will also take some actions, take some measures. Because the Belarusians have the same right to be free as we have, and I do not see any reason why it should not be so. Of course, the regime that is in place is unacceptable, what is happening in the streets there is unacceptable, what happened there is unacceptable. And now the question is whether the European Union will issue only declarations or whether it will take specific steps. The Polish prime minister also made a proposal, and we will certainly join. And I believe that either the European consul or the European Commission should come up with a proposal, because it is unimaginable that so close to us things like that happen.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, and this is the end of the press conference. Thank you very much.