World Czech Prime Minister wants to know who changed his country's name

01:56  14 february  2020
01:56  14 february  2020 Source:   msn.com

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The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (informally abbreviated to PM), until 1801 known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is the head of government of the United Kingdom.

The Chairman of the Government of the Czech Republic ( Czech : Předseda vlády České republiky, normally referred to in English as the Prime Minister )

a woman holding a sign© FILIP SINGER/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK The prime minister of the Czech Republic was halfway through an interview in March when he was told somebody had officially changed the name of his country to Czechia.

“You changed it? Or you changed it?” Andrej Babis said to his aides, swinging around in his chair.

One of the aides stepped forward and quietly explained that the U.N. had acceded to a proposal to recognize the Czech Republic under the new name.

Andrej Babis.© Getty Andrej Babis. “I didn’t know this. I don’t like it at all,” he said, in the interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s because then you will confuse Czechia, Chechnya, I don’t know. I don’t like this. We are Czech Republic. We are Czechs. And I don’t know who came with such a stupid idea. Crazy.”

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The answer: the country’s 75-year-old president, Miloš Zeman.

In the heart of Europe, this country’s head of state and government remain at odds over what the Czech Republic should be called.

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The row has forced embassies and corporations to choose sides in a low-key and passive-aggressive naming contest.

President Zeman prefers Czechia, a centuries-old name that he said sounds nicer, and more evocative.

Just as French people come from France, not the French Republic, he believes Czechs come from Czechia.

When new ambassadors arrive at the presidential office to present credentials, the head of state uses the opportunity to exact a pledge:

“Promise me you will call it Czechia,” one Western diplomat recalled being told, as Mr Zeman held his hand in an extended handshake.

“I am strongly against,” said Mr Babis, the prime minister, whose stationery retains the name Czech Republic. Mr Babis heads the government and constitutionally holds more power than President Zeman.

“The prime minister has a different opinion than the president. This is freedom and democracy. That is all,” said the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček.

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Miloš Zeman.© Getty Miloš Zeman. The United Nations officially calls the country Czechia, as does internet giant Google. In communities such as online guide Wikitravel, contributors are changing the name back and forth with increasing frequency. At the moment, the name appears as the “Czech Republic.”

The nation’s embassy in Australia has taken a diplomatic approach. It is celebrating 2020 with what its website calls “The Year of Czechia in Australia,” which it hopes “will bring joy to friends and enthusiasts of the Czech Republic in Australia.”

“Thank you for visiting the website ‘Czechia in Australia’ created by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Canberra,” reads its homepage.

The U.S. State Department acknowledges the short name but continues to refer to the country as the Czech Republic in all public communications.

“We rarely use the short name and personally I can’t remember the last time I have used it in my remarks,” U.S. Ambassador Stephen King said recently. “I know that in all official communications we use Czech Republic as do I believe most Czechs.”

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Other nations are just ignoring Mr Zeman’s directive.

Czech Republic.© Reuters Czech Republic. The British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Nick Archer, said there isn’t even any discussion about whether to start using the name Czechia. English soccer fans certainly haven’t got the memo: during qualifiers for the Euro 2020 tournament, Google searches surged for “Czech Republic” and not “Czechia,” every time the country played England, according to Google Trends.

Overall, Google Trends shows that searches for the “Czech Republic” have still outnumbered Czechia about 20 to 2 this year.

The Czech debate is the last battle remaining from what academics called The Hyphen War of 1990, when the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic fell.

Slovak politicians used the opening to demand the country adopt a hyphen in its name, to signal Czechs and Slovak equality: The Czecho-Slovak Republic. Then-Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel accepted the name change, over Czech complaints.

The two sides were debating the name until Czechoslovakia, after 74 years as a nation, broke apart in 1993—into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

That year, the Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping, and Cadaster named it Czechia, an English version of the Czech word Česko. The nation’s Senate recommended ministries start using Czechia in 2004. Most Czechs continued to call it the Czech Republic.

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Some suggested that the name was a reminder of the country ’ s split from Slovakia, though others said it just sounds nasty: The word is “short and harsh sounding,” one Czech cartographer told Radio Prague in 2004. French prime minister wants to ban Islamic headscarves in universities.

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All was quiet until 2013, when Mr Zeman won the presidency.

One of his first items of business was the name change. By 2016, Mr Zeman had convinced the government to send a notification to the U.N. to start using the new name in official documents and databases.

A U.N. information bulletin published at the time claimed that the first recorded use of the name Czechia was in 1634 in Latin, centuries before the country even existed. The U.N. hasn’t updated its social media accounts even though it has had four years to make the changes.

“The social media challenge is a pragmatic one: it takes time to get the Facebook, Twitter or Insta account changed,” a U.N. spokesman said, without further explanation.

Czech Republic.© Getty Czech Republic. The Czech government sent Google an official letter requesting the change. The internet giant said it relies on multiple sources, including the U.N., for guidance for Google Maps, and began using Czechia in 2017.

When other companies and organizations, like the European Union, proved slow on the uptake, Mr Zeman’s government took further action.

Prague sent the European Commission an official letter in 2018 to request the use of Czechia on nametags at meetings. The EU acceded to the request, and sought to lay the dispute to rest by producing detailed guidance explaining when to use which name. The short name is used for geographic and economic references, while the long name is used for legal matters.

“The full official name of our country has not changed, it is still called the Czech Republic,” a spokesman for the EU said.

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The following countries have not always held the name by which they are known .

Prime Minister Andrej Babis wants to pull out of the UN migration agreement and will be discussing it with his governing coalition partner. In a Q&A session in parliament Babis told lawmakers he disliked the agreement and said nobody but the Czech Republic would decide on migration into the country .

Mr Babis’s fears about the new name are grounded in experience.

The media has a record for confusing the country with Chechnya, the Russian republic that has fought two separatist wars with Moscow. It’s bad press for a country whose economy thrives on tourism.

During the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured some 140 others in 2013, U.S. news broadcasters erroneously reported that the bombers were Czech instead of Chechen.

The Czech ambassador to the U.S. issued a statement distancing the country from troubled Chechnya.

“The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities—the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation,” the ambassador, Petr Gandalovič, wrote.

Last year, the Balkan nation Macedonia ratified a U.S.-backed deal with Greece to change its name to “North Macedonia,” ending a 27-year dispute with Greece, which has a region also called Macedonia.

Over 30 years ago, the Southeast Asian country known as Burma changed its name to Myanmar after a military coup in 1989. The U.N. accepted the change, but the U.S. still publicly uses the name Burma in protest. The U.K. uses both.

“We don’t have that problem,” said Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová in an interview next door in the capital Bratislava last year. “Because we’re Slovakia.”

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