Czechs leftists back business over human rights ahead of election

Reuters

PRAGUE, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic should notharm its business relations with Russia and China by stressinghuman rights concerns, the country's prospective financeminister said on Tuesday.

For most of the past two decades, foreign policy in the NATOand EU member country had a strong human rights aspect, thanksto the first post-communist President Vaclav Havel, himself apolitical prisoner when Prague was part of the Soviet bloc.

Jan Mladek, finance speaker for the Social Democrat partythat is set to win the largest share of the vote in the Oct25-26 election, said the government should care for jobs first.

"One extreme is the tendency to evaluate the quality ofdemocracy in Russia. I admire the guts of someone who can dothat. Maybe we should start with ourselves,and the tendency todiscuss the quality of human rights or territorial integrity ofChina," Mladek said at a pre-election debate.

People who do that deprive the country of "tens of thousandsof jobs", he said.

"By no means we should be advocating for authoritarianregimes, but on the other hand we need to accept these arelarge, important countries," he said.

Havel used to host exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, andformer centre-right Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek raised someeyebrows in 2008 when he donned a Tibetan flag pin whileannouncing his trip to the Beijing Olympic Games. The Czechshave also been supporting dissidents in Belarus and in Cuba.

Karel Schwarzenberg, foreign minister in the lastcentre-right cabinet that collapsed in June, had also criticisedthe sentencing of members of the Russian Pussy Riot punk bandlast year for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putinin the main Moscow church.

Exports account roughly for 80 percent of the Czech grossdomestic product (GDP). Some 78 percent of the total exportvolume went to the European Union in 2012, while combinedexports to Russia and China accounted for 5 percent.

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