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LN: Reserved Czech stance on Greece seems deep-rooted

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Prague, July 26 (CTK) – The Czech rejection to help the indebted Greece has deeper roots than the repeated arguments that this is an issue of the euro zone member countries and that the Greeks cannot be trusted, daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote Sunday.

There are two reasons underlying this reserved or negative stance that the Czechs take on possible aid to Greece, the paper says.

First, the Czech Republic has little in common with Greece, although both are member of the European Union.

Second, Czech politicians used the Greek crisis as a negative example that must not be followed in their election campaigns in 2010.

As a result, the politicians can hardly show readiness to send billion to save Greece, LN writes.

The Czech government did not even want to guarantee a part of a bridging loan provided to Greece under certain conditions.

Greece is only a marginal partner of the Czech Republic in the European Union, for example when new European legislation for the Czech Republic is being created.

Milena Vicenova, former Czech ambassador to the EU, said the Czech Republic and Greece have only a few connecting lines.

“Greece certainly is no partner for forming any interest alliances for us,” she said.

The Greeks mostly focus on Mediterranean partnership, while the Czechs are primarily interested in the Eastern Partnership.

Moreover, Greece has a different legal basis and it is hard to cooperate with it in the judicial or security issues when they are deal with in Brussels, Vicenova said.

She said the natural partners for the Czech Republic are members of the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) or countries that had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (also Slovenia, Srbia, Croatia, Romania) and whose legislation developed in the same way in history.

In history, one of the rare links between the two countries is the arrival of Greek exiles to Czechoslovakia, mostly to the city of Brno, in the 1960s, Vicenova said.

Thanks to this, there has been a small Greek minority in the country.

Present Czech ambassador to the EU, Martin Povejsil, said Greece is an important partner for the Czech Republic in that it does not block the promotion of Czech interests.

“Czechs take a reserved stance on providing aid in general, but it is willing to help its really close partners,” Vicenova said.

She mentioned a loan of 200 million euros that the Czech government decided to offer to Latvia when it was on the brink of state bankruptcy in 2009.

However, this loan was not provided in the end.

Czech finance minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) who proposed to give this loan to Latvia, was strongly against giving any guarantees to Greece. Kalousek used Greece in his election campaign promoting austerity measures and aiming against the “irresponsible” Social Democrats (CSSD) who might get the country into a fix by taking “the Greek path.”

Before the 2010 elections, the right-wing and conservative parties turned the Greek crisis into the main issue of the campaign, the paper writes.

This plays the key role in the public image of Greece as an extreme problem and an irresponsible partner to whom the Czech Republic must not give any loan, LN points out.

When the right-wing government produced by this election introduced austerity measures, its representatives argued that they do not want to make the Czech Republic “a second Greece,” the paper writes.

Apart from this, then president Vaclav Klaus was a resolute opponent of the euro and he markedly contributed to the negative view of the euro zone, LN writes.

“In this political constellation it was very hard to promote the view relying on information from Brussels talks – that we should help the euro zone to get stabilised. In 2009, the view that it is just a minor disease still prevailed in the Czech Republic,” Vicenova said.

She said the fact that the Czech Republic was outside the euro zone and its leaders did not have first-hand information was of major importance.

When the finance minister received the information on a heated euro zone meeting lasting eight hours in 20 minutes, he did not consider it so critical, Vicenova said.

As the Greek debt crisis is primiarily dealt with by euro zone member countries, it does not concern the Czech Republic institutionally.

“It is not that we would not have enough information, but there of course is an institutional boundary. The views from the inside and outside of the euro zone are different,” Povejsil said.

The Czech position on guarantees for Greece has always been more or less the same: a rejection of any participation in the rescue measures and then gradual moderation of this stance. Diplomats then say they have received increased guarantees that the money will be safe and will not be misused, the paper writes.

If the third rescue package of up to 86 billion euros is granted to Greece, the support that the indebted state has received will be eight times higher than the Czech state budget, LN writes.

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