In his speech announcing a new US-led initiative in arms reduction, Barack Obama noted how unlikely it would have been at the time of his birth to imagine that in the near future, an Afro-American president would be speaking in the free city of Prague. Even less likely would have been envisioning the Czech Republic as presiding over a new union of European states. Today, both scenarios have been realized – the first one successful, the second a total failure.
Unfortunately, the Czechs have done their best to live up to their reputation as the political clown princes of Europe. Though Czech premier Topolánek had some success in his first few months as EU leader, he was soon eclipsed by the row over the Czech Republic’s official work of art contribution to the EU, the “Entropa,” a huge plastic mural with scenes caricaturing EU nations – Bulgaria as a Turkish pisoir, Germany with highways in the shape of a swastika, Italy with soccer players masturbating with the football, and so forth.
If this wasn’t enough to endear the country to the EU, the never-ending pubertal squabbling of the country’s politicians led to a vote of no-confidence and the downfall of the government in the middle of the EU presidency. Predictably, the only person to welcome the news was Czech Republic president Václav Klaus, who refuses to fly the EU flag above Prague Castle, claiming the EU is an organization just as dangerous as the former Communist empire.
No wonder that the US presidential protocol team had an ulcer. The official state dinner welcoming the US president went out the window, and was replaced with a brief breakfast of the US and Czech presidents and lame-duck premier. And since Topolánek, though married, has an official mistress (one of the pre-requisites for gaining Czech popularity), Michelle Obama had to take in Prague “on her own” after being escorted by Mr. Klaus. In the end, Obama had his one-on-one meeting with the only legitimate Czech politician who could be found – former president and dissident Václav Havel.
The following day, the Czech government agreed to dissolve itself and install a technocratic cabinet until the undetermined date of the next elections. In doing so, they also quashed the work of the most successful minister of foreign affairs in the country’s history, Karel Schwarzenberg and with him, any hope at all of a positive outcome to the country’s |EU presidency.
Martin Jan Stránský
|The New Presence||spring 2009|
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