Thursday, 24 April 2014

Klaus condemns ambassadors' letter on Prague Pride

ČTK |
9 August 2011

Prague/London, Aug 8 (CTK) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus considers the letter by 13 ambassadors in which they supported the August 13 Prague march of sexual minorities an unprecedented step, he said in a press release yesterday.

The ambassadors should know that the ongoing debate in this respect does not only focus on whether the march should be permitted but also on the event's public support by Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (Civic Democrats, ODS).

"I can't imagine any Czech ambassador daring to interfere by a petition with the internal political discussion in any democratic country in the world," Klaus said.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has called the letter, signed by ambassadors of European countries, the U.S. and Canada, counter-productive.

The British Foreign Office stands by the letter that it initiated, it told CTK.

"We stand by our letter in support of this week’s Pride event in Prague. There is no reason why this support should be interpreted as criticism of the Czech authorities," the Foreign Office's spokesman said.

"Embassies issue messages of support to such events in many countries, including in the Central European region," he added.

Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) wrote on his website that he considers it counter-productive and unnecessary to express support to the rights that no one in the Czech Republic denies or suppresses.

"No one prevents the relevant groups from enjoying their rights and manifesting them in public," Schwarzenberg says.

Referring to the ambassadors' letters, he says it prompted a "very unfortunate debate which, moreover, unnecessarily makes an impression of an interference in internal affairs. This, I suppose, was not the respective diplomatic missions' intention," he adds.

Klaus, on his part, said he would formulate his criticism even more sharply than Schwarzenberg.

The ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA voiced in a joint statement on Friday "solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the Czech Republic, supporting their right to use this occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to raise awareness of the specific issues that affect them."

Schwarzenberg, nevertheless, says in his reaction "the polemical statement by a senior official" was unfortunate.

He referred to the Presidential Office deputy head Petr Hajek, who previously criticised the Prague Pride march of sexual minorities as a pressure action and a political manifestation of a distorted system of values.

Late last week, Klaus defended Hajek, saying Prague Pride, scheduled for next Saturday, is not a display of homosexuality but homosexualism, something he is afraid of.

By this statement, Klaus said yesterday, he protested against the restriction of the freedom of speech.

He appreciated the thanks that Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka has sent him for his published opinion.

"The right to approve or disapprove of the Prague Pride demonstration ranks among the elementary freedoms of our country's citizens," Klaus said.

The embassies' petition was initiated by the British embassy, which on Friday emphasised that the petition has nothing to do with Hajek's utterances.

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