Saturday, 19 April 2014

Týden: Future to clear up diplomatic myths about new president

ČTK |
12 February 2013

Prague, Feb 11 (CTK) - Milos Zeman will become new Czech president in March and only the first months in the post will show which of the diplomatic myths that accompany his personality will prove true, Miroslav Korecky writes in weekly Tyden out yesterday.

Zeman, honorary chairman of the Party of Citizens' Rights (SPOZ), was Social Democrat (CSSD) prime minister in 1998-2002, CSSD chairman until 2001 when he did not seek re-election and a member of the party until 2007 when he left it over disagreement with its leadership.

Zeman, 68, was elected president in the first direct election in January.

Korecky writes that all who somehow participate in Czech foreign policy are slightly afraid of Zeman because he is not strictly copying any of the main streams of Czech diplomacy.

Unlike his predecessor Vaclav Klaus he will be much less predictable in this respect, Korecky writes.

Zeman was presenting his foreign political opinions and taking various steps throughout his post-communist career in a number of public posts and as a media-known old-age pensioner, but a new role compels different accents, different symbols and also a different self-correcting mechanism, Korecky writes.

Zeman's attitude to the EU will be of priority importance for the Czech Republic.

It seems to be clear because Eurofederalist Zeman wants to hoist the EU flag in Prague as one of his first steps in his office, by which he differs from Eurosceptic Klaus who refused to have a flag at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, Korecky writes.

However, Zeman's Europeanism is full of contradictions, Korecky writes and says Zeman believes that the EU's deeper integration will raise the effectiveness and international prestige of the grouping.

That is why he wants more powers for the European Parliament, the establishment of a fully-fledged political government of the EU and the transfer of national foreign and defence policies to Brussels, Korecky writes.

On the other hand, he stresses national interests and rejects a unitary super state in which an army of bureaucrats is banning butter spread or orders what parameters an Euro water closet should have, Korecky writes.

He says Zeman will definitely be opposed to the Prague-London axis that dominates the Czech Republic's European policy now.

On the other hand, Korecky writes, a number of details derive from Zeman's two-tier perception of integration (federalist vs anti-unitarist), in which Zeman will paradoxically stand closer to the line pursued by Klaus as well as the government of Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS).

Zeman has already made this clear when he supported the government's distance from the "fiscal compact." Like the government he claims that a treaty on budgetary discipline is not a matter of the EU, but only of the euro zone, Korecky says.

Zeman in fact wants a referendum on the euro adoption though he himself wants to promote the euro, Korecky says.

Zeman's arrival in power will be no relief from Brussels after the euro-sceptic Klaus, Korecky writes.

He says Zeman has long been critical of the EU for what he calls a policy of appeasement in relation to Islamic terrorism.

At variance with the EU as well as the Czech left he is a clear "agent" of Israel (in this he is in line with Necas's government), or even an outright anti-Muslim hawk, Korecky says.

Zeman loudly supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he promotes a preemptive attack on Iran, whose President Ahmadinejad he calls madman, he has long been opposed to Turkey's EU entry while he calls for Israel's admission to NATO and criticises the recognition of independent Kosovo, Korecky writes.

He says Zeman's relationship to Russia arouses big fears.

"In the Kremlin they may be satisfied: unlike Karel Schwarzenberg, Milos Zeman is known for having rather warmer relations to the Russian Federation. Besides, people with relatively tight links to Russian business are in his surroundings," Russian paper Kommersant commented on Zeman's election, Korecky recalls.

Zeman will undobutedly be more accommodating to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Schwarzenberg would have been, and he may be even more accommodating than Necas's government may like it, particularly at the time of decision-making on the mega order for the completion of the nuclear power plant in Temelin, Korecky writes.

Compared with Klaus's line this will not probably be any huge shift, Korecky writes.

He writes that Zeman has long bet on a strong trans-Atlantic tie, and he recalls that the Czech republic entered NATO precisely under his government.

On the other hand, he has not concealed his effort to diversify foreign policy, that is he would like to add the mounting markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa, particularly the new BRICS powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to the EU and U.S. markets, Korecky writes.

The human-rights dimension that was typical of Czech foreign policy after the fall of the communist regime in 1989 will not probably be promoted strongly under Zeman, Korecky writes.

It is evident that Zeman is not copying any party-institutional direction of Czech foreign policy. He is placed with his opinions somewhere in the centre of gravity of the triangle whose points are formed by Necas, Schwarzenberg and his probable successor after the 2014 general election, Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD), Korecky writes.

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