The Czech Republic, known for its spectacular architecture, affordable nightlife, and high standard of living, has jumped one place this year. With Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, and Oskar Schindler all native to the Czech Republic, the country has a rich and interesting history. And while this is certainly something to boast about, we noted last year that the Czech Republic was also gaining a reputation for its hard-line position on refusing to accept refugees under EU relocation programmes. This hasn’t yet showed signs of slowing down, with the election of the Prime Minister Andrej Babis – who has been likened to Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi – and the re-election of his close political ally, the anti-immigration President Milos Zeman. Babis, who spent eight months establishing a minority government, has now been given the remit to pursue his anti-migration, anti-corruption, anti-waste, and anti-bureaucracy agenda. But having also adopted a more pro-EU stance than his President, we may see changes in the Czech Republic’s direction over the next twelve months. On a lighter note, the Czech Republic is known for some slightly quirky assets: it is home to the highest density of castles in the world and the highest rate of beer consumption per capita!
Looking beyond its rich historical tapestry, the Czech Republic is a leading Eastern European hub for business. It sits at the front in Central and Eastern Europe for attracting foreign direct investment, and its busy factories are experiencing labour shortages because of growth. The Czech Republic’s location, skilled workforce, and tax incentives suggest the country will continue to enjoy greater economic prosperity.
Negative coverage around the EU Commission’s case against the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary over migrant quotas has likely weakened international perceptions of the Czech Republic. However, recent steps by Babis to emphasise the Czech Republic’s pro-EU orientation – as well as the expulsion of three Russian diplomats in March – may help to shift some of these negative perceptions in the West.
With a reputation for being an affordable travel destination and a hub for business and investment in Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic has the opportunity to build its global brand on tourism and enterprise. And if Babis continues to adopt a more outward-looking international perspective, flows of foreign investment will increase and international perceptions will improve.