The little thing about Jan Kavan

Since the day he stepped into office, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan seems to be unable to avoid controversy. His alleged cooperation with the communist authorities during his stay in England in the 1960s was the subject of a widely circulated book with the title “KATO” – the alleged operational code-name given to him by the communist state police. To-date, Kavan has refused to give an adequate explanation regarding his activities while abroad, only to deny any possible wrongdoing. 

Next on the list is Kavan’s attitude toward the Czech Republic’s strongest and most influential ally, the United States. Quite simply, minister Kavan doesn’t appear to see it that way. When NATO decided to use force during the Kosovo crisis, the Czech government decided to voice its disagreement by stating that “the decision to use force in Kosovo was made before we were actually voted into NATO.” 

Not learning from this diplomatic faux-pas, Kavan was next instrumental in rousing the ire of his allies and the US in making it clear that the Czech Republic didn’t feel that US sanctions against Cuba were an effective tool. While it’s quite reasonable to adopt the latter position and to disagree with allies, such disagreements should always be ironed out behind closed doors, and not blurted out in the context of EU resolutions, as was the case. Does the Minister understand the definition of the term “alliance?” 

Kavan’s most recent Kavan controversy occurred during his recent visit to the United States, where he was to meet with US Foreign Secretary Colin Powell as well as Bush’s advisors to review US-Czech Republic diplomatic relations, which all observers agree are now at their lowest point since 1989. However, just after arriving to Washington, Kavan experienced a “little heart attack,” and had to be admitted to the hospital. This prevented him from meeting with Powell, but apparently was not serious enough to keep him from leaving the hospital two days later and jetting off to the UN, to push his own candidacy as the next possible head of the UN General Assembly. To be fair, Kavan does have a long-standing history of cardiac disease and bypass surgeries. However, as a practicing physician, I do know that in the US as well as in the Czech Republic, no patient with a history of pre-existing cardiac bypass who experiences a heart attack – however small – is allowed to fly and resume a busy schedule two days after the event. 

To add insult to injury, Kavan carried no health insurance to cover him while travelling abroad. Kavan’s explanation was that first, had he been travelling privately, he would of course have purchased travel insurance and second, thus far, the government feels that paying for health insurance for all government employees travelling abroad is far more expensive than paying their bills directly on an as-needed basis. And so Kavan’s woeful lack of understanding of the big picture again asserts itself – at the international level, where public scrutiny tends to be quite high, there are situations when supporting the image of professionalism and organization (such as carrying health insurance) simply count for more than does any possible cost effectiveness. It seems the minister simply doesn’t get it.
I guess its just another one of those little “Kavan” details. 

MUDr. Martin Jan Stránský, MD, FACP 


The New Presencesummer 2001

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