Zuzana Čaputová Abroad: Winning Hearts, Showing Elbows and Setting Fashion Trends 

Čaputová and German President Steinmeier – Twitter: Zuzana Čaputová, 21.08.19

Mrs. Čaputová goes on eight business trips during the first summer of her presidency. One of them is taking place in Germany just now. So what can Berlin expect? Well, judging from her previous visits, it is hard to tell, but it will definitively be worth paying attention to.

 

Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová has chosen the slogan of her presidency to be „heart, reason, hands“, and she has proven to have an abundance of the first two already during the presidential elections.

She was not afraid to open her heart to the voters, which helped her to win and to become the first female president of the small conservative Slovak nation. Her reasonable approach to domestic politics and strategic partnership building prove that she is no political poster beauty, but a strong and confident leader.

 

Criticizing the V4, Loving the EU

Čaputová’s first visit was, as tradition commands, to the neighbouring Czech Republic, with other Visegrad countries (V4) following. After the first round of diplomatic visits, two things were already very clear: Firstly, Čaputová’s foreign policy is going to be every liberal’s dream. Secondly, the president is anything but kind to her central European comrades.

Even though she showed off great diplomatic efforts, her disapproval of the current Czech political situation was detectable. During her speech, she mentioned quite openly (for diplomatic standards) that she understands those who are protesting against the current government.

„It is already obvious that we won’t be in agreement on many issues“, she noted with regards to the address of the Czech President Miloš Zeman. She also visited the grave of Peace Nobel Prize Laureate and Czech President Václav Havel, an invitation that Mr. Zeman refused to follow. One could comment that the symbolism of this situation spoke for itself.

During her visit to Hungary, Čaputová openly criticized the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his autocratic policies, and spoke in the defence of the values of liberal democracy, which are currently challenged by his regime. She also criticized the long-term unconstructive approach of the V4 within the EU, which harmed the region’s ambitions during the “European Game of Thrones” – the recent reshuffle of EU institutions’ top jobs. The Hungarians reacted promptly did not need long to react and the state media started referring to Čaputová as the agent of American billionaire George Soros.

In Warsaw, Čaputová reminded her audience of the important role of former President Lech Walesa in the defeat of communism. Given the difficult relationship between Mr. Walesa and the current eminence of Polish politics, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the incumbent government is very likely to understand these remarks as a provocation.

At the same time, Mrs. Čaputová did not hesitate to appreciate Poland’s support for Ukraine, referring to Kyiv as a strategic partner, while condemning Russia as a country „not respecting rules.“

When talking about her home country, Čaputová is (understandably) very keen on promoting Slovakia abroad as the most pro-European country in Central Europe, not only since Slovakia is the only V4 country to have adopted the Euro.

 

A Heart for Human Rights

Čaputová is sending out clear messages when it comes to human rights, especially when it comes to China and its persistent violation thereof. She has seized the first opportunity to do so during the state visit of the Chinese minister of foreign affairs to Slovakia. „I have informed the minister that I consider protection of human rights to be the integral cornerstone of our freedom“, Čaputová said.

Unlike other V4 politicians, Čaputová has also declared her support for refugees openly. During her state visit to France, she pointed out the issue of irregular migration as a problem that concerns the EU as a whole and that needs all member states to be part of a solution.

 

Hidden Secrets behind Colours

Besides being head of state, Čaputová is also on her best way to become a regional fashion icon. Similarly to the British duchess Kate, or former Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, she uses her clothes to send out a subtle political message.

She wore a green dress for the first diplomatic visit to the Czech Republic. Green is generally the colour of friendship, harmony, symbiosis, as well as hope and positive growth, and moreover, the President is very fond of green. The colour also evokes a strong environmental connection, which is one of her focal topics.

The choice of a dark blue dress, matching the colours of equally the EU and NATO flags, was meant to proclaim the importance of European and transatlantic relations for Slovakia.

White on the other hand, is one of the national colours of Poland. It also refers to the legacy of the Polish pope John Paul II. Together with the red of the red carpet, Čaputová created the composition of the Polish flag during her visit.

Then again, her dress in France was a salute to the most distinguished Parisian fashion houses, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel or Dior.

Last but definitely not least, the magenta dress she wore in the company of Hungary’s Viktor Orban was inspired by the hussar uniform, which the Slovak voluntary legions wore in the mid-19th century. Her dress was a very diplomatic reminder of their nations’ joint history during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

One thing is for sure. It is not only worth listening to Mrs. Čaputová.

 

 

 

Adéla Klečková
Project Manager FNF Prague