Blowing it

By Martin Jan Stránský

April 9, 2009
In his speech announcing a new U.S.-led initiative in arms reduction, President Barack Obama noted how unlikely it would have been at the time of his birth to imagine that, in the near future, an African-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 Prime Minister Mirek 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, David Černý’s Entropa. 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 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 the U.S. presidential protocol team had an ulcer. The official state dinner welcoming the U.S. president went out the window, and was replaced with a brief breakfast of the U.S. and Czech presidents and the lame-duck prime minister. And, since Topolánek, though married, has an official mistress (one of the prerequisites for gaining Czech popularity), Michelle Obama had to take in Prague “on her own.” In the end, Obama had his one-on-one meeting with the only legitimate Czech politician who could be found: former President Václav Havel.

Next, the Czech government agreed to dissolve itself and install a technocratic Cabinet until 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.

– The author is a Prague-based physician, publisher and dual U.S.-Czech citizen


The Prague Post9.4.2009

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