Saturday, 4 July 2020

Mayor Hřib continues Prague's passive aggressive "foreign policy"

By Paul Lysek | Prague Daily Monitor |
10 February 2020

In the past few months there have been some decisions made by the government of Prague which have been questionable in terms of jurisdiction. Major Zdenek Hrib (Pirates), as the most powerful Prague politician, is the headline supporter and/or orchestrator of the moves. Is Prague starting its own passive aggressive “foreign policy?” As with most countries and or societies, it is difficult to actually build what needs to be built, it is hard to serve the people, it is impossible to really understand what is going on with infrastructure which can be hundreds of years old, a court system many want to leave paralyzed. Is it easier to build everything through philosophy of preaching what is right or wrong, point in “their” direction? Don’t worry about the homelessness everywhere, the spray-painted buildings all over or the lack of housing options. Leave the brown fields falling to pieces and examine how to gain popularity with the voters!

Decision ONE: Aggravate the second biggest economy in the world by taking sides in an unresolved civil war dispute. With Prague’s decision to tie up with Taiwan as a sister city, and what it stands for: Chiang Kai-Shek and his follower’s anti-Communist government residence after the civil war in China , is a major “red line” in China’s one-China policy. The Czech Republic invested years of time and many resources in trying to develop Prague into a China hub for Europe. With the decision of Prague to spotlight Taiwan, it was a direct assault on the one-China policy and has resulted in China responding by dialing back the relationship; for example canceling direct flights to China, even before Coronavirus accelerated the demise. It’s a big responsibility to take for a local politician. Taiwan must have left Hrib with an emotional connection during his student exchange term in the country.

Decision TWO: Many of Prague’s politicians, as well as politicians on the national level, have joined the Million Moments demonstrations, insisting on Premier Andrej Babis, arguably one of the most popular politicians in the Czech Republic in recent history, to resign. Did voters not know about his business interests before he was voted in? Is he the only politician who has business interests which draw criticism? At this time it serves the politicians well to target a man which seems unbeatable otherwise. Feed the fire which points at the target. Are elections not the way to remove politicians? Or will we start ignoring elections and find that demonstrations by a few thousand angry people are enough to remove people from office? Hopefully standing for free elections, and the fact that different people vote for different candidates, is the choice people make.

Decision THREE: The story released over the weekend which connected to the trend: The City of Prague is on the verge of renaming the Square Pod Kastany to Boris Nemcov Square. For those who may not recall Boris Nemcov, he was an ex-politician in Russian in the nineties who was a critic of Putin after his election. It can be said he was a great critic and one of the great voices of freedom standing against the increasingly authoritarian Russian government, which was returning to its century’s old practice of centralized, authoritarian administration. He was gunned down in Moscow almost five years ago. The motive remains unclear but many have assumed that it was a hit from the Russian government. Why does Prague want to get involved in such a complex issue?

Why Pod Kastany? That is the address of the Russian Embassy complex, which takes up residence on a huge estate in Prague 6. So in the future, all mail and reference to the Russian Embassy address is Boris Nemcov Square. Is that a provocation? “I can’t understand why this would be understood in that manner. We are talking about an ex-Vice Premier of the Russian Federation, a previous successful regional politician in Russia, who was murdered,” said Hrib. If only all issues were so simple to understand and explain.

As the Prague government battles housing availability criticism, exaggerated by an archaic building permit system which apparently takes about five years to muddle through, Hrib has pointed the finger at the short-term rental business. The resourceful group of investors, which have bought flats in the city-center and rent them out for profit via nifty global online platforms, are a target of the government and an obvious scapegoat for soaring rents. Recently Hrib said that the short-term rentals need to be “controlled,” maybe only rooms should be allowed to be rented; a chosen philosophy. It may be that if we provoke countries with different philosophies, all those pesky tourists will be encouraged to avoid Prague, and maybe it would solve the housing shortage.

Would it serve the City of Prague to get back to business, rather than developing a philosophy? There is much to be done. Seeing a cleaner, functional, efficient city would master a political statement which the next elected official can just “delete.”