A top secret document advises Czech officals to wear polished shoes, smart suits and practice good hygiene in order to successfully survive the EU presidency, writes journalist Martin Ehl in his tongue in cheek article for
Czech officials and diplomats are on alert. They are not permitted to switch off their blackberries, so they would not miss any news related to the Czech Republic, the EU and the world and to be prepared anytime to deny anything the Czech president says about the EU.
HN managed to secure a government document labeled as TOP SECRET. The document is so secret that it could not even be distributed via blackberries and the officials had to go read the paper version to specially checked rooms of the Czech government grounds, where staff training on work place safety and traffic regulations are normally signed.
The author has not been disclosed. The signature is not clear, although the document called “How to survive the presidency” is written in a clearly bureaucratic style of the Czernin Palace with inclination to Eurospeak, which now governs the Straka Academy.
Suit and clean shoes
The opening paragraphs call on Czech officials (excluding foreign ministry staff, who know their manners due to their tradition of maintaining diplomatic ties) to wear appropriate clothes (no wrinkly suits or white socks), use deodorants and clean their shoes every day before they get to work (and repeat it during the day if necessary).
The document points out several delicate points awaiting officials in Prague as well those fortunate ones who will make it to Brussels in the coming months.
“What an EU official in Brussels hates most are documents that have not been discussed in advance and are submitted at the very last moment before a summit or another top meeting,” says the document in the section called “How to win Brussels officials over”. “Avoid submitting proposals from the EU presidency capital without discussing them previously with a respective commission directorate,” says the document.
Such behaviour was typical mainly of the French who took the rest of the EU by surprise almost regularly last year, while before it was the Portuguese, whose – also secret – motto for the presidency was “We will accomplish everything at the last moment”. Therefore it is not clear how the Czech motto will work: “Improvisation will last the longest.”
Extraordinary summits and last-minute meetings of politicians are considered a nightmare among the officials from Brussels, who are used to fixed working hours, warm lunches at a canteen and guaranteed EU pension.
“Don’t expect too much, propose realistic goals and be patient. Some EU members’ permanent representations don’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it won’t always be easy to find a prime minister or a minister in one day,” says the document, targeting those ambitious officials, who, in line with the Czech provincialism and based on secret government survey, think that Prague is now the centre of the universe – or at least of the EU.
Where to send visitors?
The last few pages of the top secret document designed mentions a few places where Czech officials can take visitors from Brussels (pubs and gambling houses downtown Prague top the list so as to support the tourist market hit by the crisis), and places they must avoid (Žižkov and the Prague Castle).
In Brussels, the document focuses on the Schuman Square, the seat of the EU institutions.
A passing visitor doesn’t have time to see other places in the Belgian capital anyways. Officials are advised to avoid the bar on the fifth floor of the General Secretary seat, where EU officials traditionally go for a break between meetings, as well as to avoid the famous pub O’Shea on the corner of the square where exhausted EU officials relax over a pint of Guiness and exchange gossip.
The store Leonidas located above the metro entrance on the Schuman Square is recommended as a place to buy Belgian chocolate candy when coming for a brief visit.
Useful advise (of a psychiatrist) at the end: “Use only crystal sugar to sweeten you coffee or tea in the next six months. Sugar cubes are for official purposes only.”
Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.