(From our special correspondent)
Pavel visited the European School, where about 350 children of Czech employees of European institutions attend, on the very second day of his visit to Brussels. He was welcomed by the school management with the Czech national anthem and a bouquet of flowers for his wife Eva, in return Pavel signed the memorial book. “Our own children were privileged to be educated here. And since then he has benefited from a great education and experience. Thank you and all the best,” wrote Pavel in the book.
In front of the school, he was surprised by a group of ten-year-old students with a Czech flag. The children took pictures with Pavel and had a few souvenirs signed, such as notebooks and a hockey puck.
Then the presidential couple visited the gymnasium, where about fifty of the smallest pupils were waiting for him. Pavel told them how the school worked when his son attended it. At that time there were still few Czechs in Brussels, Czech was not spoken at school and the boy had to learn French. “You now have not only a lot of Czech friends, but also friends from many other countries. It’s nice when people can communicate with each other, not argue, regardless of which part of the planet they live in, in which country they were born. Thank you very much and good luck,” the president told the children.
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They then started to come in with questions. The first boy wondered what the name of the president’s cat was and if it scratched and bit. “Our cat likes us, but when she doesn’t like something, she sometimes bites and scratches,” said Pavlová.
Another child chimed in asking if the president has a large office. “You could all fit in there. So when you go to Prague, come and see me there, you’ll definitely fit in,” Pavel invited the children.
Pavel: I am afraid for the whole country
He also had to answer for what was his biggest trouble at school. “I caused a lot of trouble. I wasn’t the best kid. I managed to break a window here and there during exercise, I climbed where I shouldn’t have. I really enjoyed going where I wasn’t allowed to go. To the boiler room or to the attic,” added Pavel.
He also had to answer the curious school children about what he is most afraid of. “He who says he is not afraid is usually lying or a little sick. Fear is a natural thing that holds us back. If we didn’t have fear, we would go headlong into everything, and we could not only hurt ourselves, but also hurt the people around us,” he added, adding that people should be able to control fear.
“I’m afraid for the people I like. And there are a lot of them today. As long as I was only concerned about my family, I was mainly worried about my loved ones, be it children, wife and parents. But now I’m in charge of the whole country, so I’m worried about everyone in that country. So I try to make sure nothing bad happens to them,” he added.
Not only small pupils experienced the visit of the head of state. “I’m excited. Emotions can express more than words. At the moment, I feel like it’s wow,” 18-year-old Filip, who is graduating this year and leaving school after 14 years, told journalists.
“We were all really looking forward to it. A lot of classmates from the German and French sections also came to see the president,” Filip added.
Very few Czechs work in the vast apparatus of the European Union
Radomíra Houšková, the teacher of the Czech pupils, confirmed their enthusiasm. “It’s a wonderful thing. The Czech section was very happy that one of the first visits of the President led to our school. Children will realize what they are aiming for with their education. That they can achieve great things, meet great people,” she told reporters.
The children of the presidential couple also went to school
As Pavel said, his son and daughter also went to the European School for about two and a half years when he and his wife Eva worked in NATO. “It gave them a great insight into their lives that we probably wouldn’t have been able to give them otherwise. When they met children from so many different cultures here, the immediate sharing of their views on the world gave them more than studying a bunch of books,” Pavel told journalists.
Eventually, Pavel left the school without being accompanied by the media for a meeting with the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Rob Bauer, in whose position he himself served from 2015 to 2018.
He should also meet with the ambassador and the permanent Czech delegation. He will have a discussion with representatives of Brussels think tanks in the building of the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union. In the evening, he should meet his compatriots again in the Prague House.
On Friday morning, Pavel is to meet with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. Afterwards, the Czech president should meet with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsolová, at the Václav Havel bench at the European Parliament. The two politicians will then hold talks in the European Parliament building.
In the Berlaymont building, the headquarters of the European Commission, Pavel will meet its president, Ursula von der Leyen. After the working lunch, Pavel and the delegation should return to Prague.
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