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Tomáš Němeček: How to make peace with Klaus

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There are optimists who think that Václav Klaus is actually beneficial to the Czech government. Whoever is holding talks in the European Union could say: You should be glad that it is us dealing with you and not Klaus, because he’s a to-tal lu-na-tic.

There are realists who say that Klaus’ dabbling in European politics can be ignored. He is a harmless clown, a circus attraction, that we should not take too seriously.

However, the last few days gave rise to pessimism: Klaus is no longer harmless. To sign a peace agreement with him for the time of the Czech EU presidency seems now more difficult than ever before. The cabinet may have no other possibility but to ask the Social Democrats or Václav Havel for help.

He doesn’t have only Lisbon in mind

My colleague Petr Kamberský wrote yesterday about the president’s campaign against the Lisbon Treaty that “we agree” with him with regards to his “big scepticism” toward the whole document. I personally cannot share Klaus’ degree of scepticism.

Firstly, the Constitutional Court disproved, convincingly in my opinion, the main fears of uncontrolled transfer of powers to Brussels. (Those who are patient enough to eat through unpleasant legal language can read a summary of the decision on the court’s website. In a nutshell: Member states stay the “masters of contracts”, they have the final word and control over the shift of powers.) An optimist would say: Hmm, Klaus has actually been useful, at least it is clearer now.

Secondly, the Constitutional Court did not find any relevant legal argument in Klaus’ speeches. The published summary therefore discusses objections raised by the Senate and mentions Klaus only in two marginal sentences. A realist would say: Hmm, he’s actually harmless, as he did not suffer only an ordinary defeat, but a complete disgrace.

But, thirdly and most importantly, for Klaus it is a matter of a never-ending campaign against the European Union. The politician is leading this campaign with his persistent sympathies toward the aggressive Russia. A pessimist will conclude: Naturally, Klaus will not stop being Klaus during the Czech presidency. And that reeks of trouble.

When presidents sulk

One could object: What big harm could he cause? He may insult somebody again, as he did once the American ambassador or his Irish hosts recently. European top politicians may apologize from summits, at which his attendance will be known in advance.

It is true that Austria has survived worse international boycotts (once with Waldheim and later with Haider). But a president who has to be kept hidden away from visitors, so that he does not do any more harm, is a burden for a presiding country. What to do about him when even the future American administration is looking with suspicion at him? And what to do about him when the Castle is now investing energy into undermining the cabinet and ODS leadership?

One does not need to be that much imaginative to conceive of the “Polish scenario” or the mutual relationship between the president Kaczyński and Tusk’s cabinet who spite each other.

Call Havel

If a peace pact is not signed by the end of the year, there remains nothing left for the cabinet but to be harsher. Here is the first proposal: To remind him decently that he is not the only president in Czech history.

Why hasn’t it occurred to anyone to invite Václav Havel for the Czech presidency, for example as an “ambassador for special missions” or as the main speaker? How many other Czechs are there whose phone call would be answered by Hillary Clinton and whose articles could be published by any newspaper in the world? You don’t have to be Havel’s fan, but look at it strictly in mathematical terms: He represents a dormant capital for Czech foreign policy. Besides the fact that Havel is a patriot and easy to communicate with, he has another advantage: His engagement would teach Klaus a lesson.

If this would not suffice, there are tougher proposals available. Former Prime Minister Paroubek once clumsily but efficiently threatened Klaus with cutting his travel expenses. Right now the budget is being discussed…

And there is also a nuclear weapon left: We still remember well how Klaus was on the straight and narrow when the independent Senator Bárta, an unguided missile, threatened with an initiation of constitutional proceedings on his removal from office. And it is clear that there are also a few such Senators today, who are to-tal lu-na-tics…

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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