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LN: Further political nominees to fill Czech diplomatic posts

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Prague, Aug 14 (CTK) – The pressure to fill Czech diplomatic posts with political nominees, who have never worked at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, instead of career diplomats strengthens before the October 20-21 general election, daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote on Monday.

It says Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) was strongly lobbying for the passage of the law on the foreign service, which took effect in July, to guarantee that more than 1000 Foreign Ministry employees serving at diplomatic missions abroad would be accepted as full-fledged diplomats after their return.

However, the law does not eliminate political nominees in diplomatic posts. On the contrary, some people from outside the Foreign Ministry’s structure are trying to get under the special law before the elections, LN says, citing some candidates who are to replace outgoing diplomats this year.

Most recently, Petr Kynstetr, a long-time head of the office of the Chamber of Deputies, became ambassador to Ireland. He received this calm post as a reward for his 27-year services to MPs across the political spectrum, LN adds.

Tomas Haisman, who headed the Interior Ministry’s asylum and migration policy section for 25 years, was appointed charge d’affaires in Kosovo. He has secured this position through the intervention of his former boss, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (CSSD). Since this is not an ambassador’s post, neither the government nor the president must approve his nomination, but Zaoralek’s signature suffices, LN writes.

The post of ambassador to Montenegro is prepared for a high officer of the Office for Foreign Relations and Information (UZSI) civilian intelligence service, according to LN sources.

The Foreign Ministry traditionally does not comment on the planned changes in diplomatic posts.

Moreover, Zaoralek says this practice is not exceptional. “There has always been a certain share of political nominees for the posts of ambassadors. This percentage still remains more or less the same and it is low,” Zaoralek told LN.

However, LN says it cannot be ruled out that the number of political nominees for high diplomatic posts will rise before the elections. The government approved new ambassadorial posts twice this year, in April and June, while by the autumn general election, the third group is to be approved, according to LN sources.

Besides, the Foreign Ministry will fill other posts abroad that are not connected with the ambassadorial privileges, such as general consuls and embassy secretaries. The ministry is reluctant to release any details on them, LN adds.

The current diplomats abroad live in uncertainty about their future, too. A high-ranking diplomat in a Balkan country has only learnt about his successor from the media, LN writes.

The paper also refers to a few examples of ambassadors who received the post directly in the past and whose cases drew a high media attention.

in 2013, President Milos Zeman offered the post of ambassador to Slovakia to Livia Klausova, wife of his predecessor Vaclav Klaus, and he wanted Vladimir Remek, the first and only Czech cosmonaut and MEP for the Communists (KSCM), to head the embassy in Russia. Both Klausova and Remek supported Zeman in the presidential campaign.

Their nominations for ambassadors caused a rift with foreign minister Schwarzenberg and blocked the process of changes in ambassadorial posts. It was resolved only by the following caretaker government that agreed with Zeman’s proposals.

LN also writes that after the general election, a new foreign minister is likely to reshuffle the team of his close aides. This is why he will need diplomatic posts available for those he wants to “remove.”

It adds that Zaoralek proceeded this way after he became head of diplomacy in 2013. He sent Tomas Dub (right-wing Civic Democrats, ODS), deputy to his predecessor Karel Schwarzenberg, as an ambassador to Japan. Another former deputy minister, Veronika Kuchynova Smigolova, ended up in an insignificant post of a special envoy for transatlantic trade and investment partnership and then she became ambassador to Egypt, LN writes.

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