Prague, Jan 1 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman, who starts the third year of his five-year mandate in March, was in the limelight in 2015 mainly due to his hard words about migrants as well as other statements on foreign political topics which, however, pushed up his popularity ratings up to 54 percent.
Disagreement with Zeman´s statements was shown by the centre-left coalition government of Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), the opposition and the states he criticised.
Zeman says the migrants leave their homes mainly for economic reasons and that is why a majority of them do not deserve compassion.
The young men from the war-afflicted regions should go and fight for the freedom of their countries, Zeman says.
He says no one has invited the migrants to the Czech Republic and that Europe faces an organised invasion.
Sobotka says Zeman should not promote the spread of anger at the refugees.
Criticism of Zeman culminated after the November 17 national holiday, marking the student demonstrations against the Nazi occupation in 1939 and the Communist regime in 1989, when Zeman stood on the platform next to Martin Konvicka, chief representative of the extremist Bloc Against Islam. Konvicka is notorious for his anti-Muslim statements.
Zeman also roused a strong controversy by his attendance at the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Russia and China.
He did not attend the military parade in Moscow, but he watched it in China unlike a majority of European statesmen.
The U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Andrew Schapiro, expressed surprise at Zeman´s presence at the Moscow celebrations at the time where relations between Russia and the West are tense. Zeman reacted saying the door to Prague Castle, the presidential seat, is closed to Schapiro.
Zeman also took an accommodating stance on Russia in connection with the sanctions the EU imposed against Vladimir Putin´s regime in reaction to the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.
Zeman criticised the sanctions and said they will end by the year´s end, which did not happen. A petition accusing Zeman of treason was initiated over his anti-sanction statements, but the Senate rejected it.
After a decline in his popularity at the beginning of last year, trust in Zeman again went up to 54 percent in early December and he became one of the most popular politicians.
However, the group of his opponents is also strong. The most visible example of disagreement with Zeman was the hanging up of a pair of boxer shorts over Prague Castle with which members of the art group Ztohoven disguised as chimney sweeps replaced the presidential flag.
They said the boxer shorts are a symbol of a man who is not ashamed of anything. Three people responsible for Prague Castle security had to leave their posts in this connection.
Zeman has been repeatedly criticised for the choice of his aids. The National Security Office (NBU) refused to grant security clearance to Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynar last year, but he still keeps the post.
On the other hand, Rostislav Pilc, head of the military department of the Presidential Office, has been stripped of security clearance.
Martin Nejedly, Zeman´s influential aide, headed a firm that owes the state 27.5 million crowns according to a court verdict that is not yet valid.
Besides his dispute with Schapiro, Zeman was also in conflict with representatives of other countries. At the end of last year, the Czech Republic dealt with a diplomatic rift over Zeman´s statements about Greece.
Zeman said he regrets that Greece has been kept in the euro zone. After several verbal complaints, Athens recalled its ambassador for consultations over Zeman´s statements, which is an unusual step in relations between allies.
Zeman also chose sharp words about Norway in connection with the Norwegian authorities´ procedure in the case of the Michalak brothers who were taken away from their Czech mother.
Zeman has several times come out in her aid and asked the Norwegian king for help. After Norwegian authorities made a decision on putting the two children up for adoption, Zeman cancelled an invitation addressed to the Norwegian ambassador to the Czech Republic to attend the celebrations of the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918 on October 28.
Zeman also drew attention with other steps he took. He changed the purpose of his fund, originally launched to help repay the state debt, and sent the money to the indebted Fund of Children in Need.
He also succeeded in reaching a preliminary agreement with Catholic Church over its property claims within the Prague Castle complex.
Zeman´s sharp dispute with the academic community continued last year. He did not again invite his critics from among university rectors and refused to appoint three candidates for professorship, over the serious wrongs they allegedly did in the past.
Academics reacted with filing a complaint against Zeman.
Zeman was also criticised for his statement that it is not suitable to educate handicapped children together with the others.
Last year, Zeman claimed that famous Czech journalist Ferdinand Peroutka (1895-1978) was fascinated by Hitler, referring to an alleged article written by Peroutka and called “Hilter is a gentleman,” which he said he read.
However, his office failed to submit any proofs even though Zeman promised 100,000 crowns to the person who would find the article. Peroutka´s grand-daughter Terezie Kaslova has filed a complaint against the state over Zeman´s statements.