The war of the last few months, fought over the slippery subject of diplomacy and concerning the nomination of the new Czech ambassadors, is destined to conclude, as the evidence leads us to believe, in favour of President Miloš Zeman, to the barely concealed dismay of the aristocratic Karel Schwarzenberg, whose mandate as Foreign Minister is over with end of the Nečas government.
Today we indeed know that the most likely outcome of the diplomatic missions of Bratislava and Moscow, as wished by Zeman, is destined to end with the appointment of the former first lady Livia Klausová, also a native of the Slovak capital, and the former cosmonaut, hero already the Soviet Union, Vladimír Remek.
Having defeated the resistance from Schwarzenberg, according to whom for offices of such importance career diplomats,would have been more suitable and not just people with long-standing ties and influential friendships. Particular importance should be given to Schwarzenberg’s failed attempt to curb the ambitions of the President Zeman on foreign policy, given that, according to the Czech constitutional order, the appointment of ambassadors, explicitly states that the decision lies with the Foreign Minister, who proposes the appointment to the head of State in agreement with the government.
With the appointment of Klausova in Bratislava, the aristocratic Schwarzenberg was also disturbed by the “logrolling” aspect of the affair. The choice of the former first lady as the new ambassador in Bratislava, seems very much like a reward from Zeman to the Klaus family for the support that they gave him during his presidential campaign.
The Klaus family, on that particular occasion, while trying to push Zeman towards the Castle, did not express kind words towards Schwarzenberg, when for example, they claimed the (then) Foreign Minister had “an Austrian”, as “a wife who does not know a word of Czech” or when they criticized him for having “a Viennese Nazi” as a father-in-law.
In addition, ironically the newspapers have also revealed that in the war years, during the period of the pro-Nazi Slovak Republic of Monsignor Tiso, the father of Klausová worked for the secret police of Bratislava and actively took part in the persecution of the Jews. A revelation that the Klaus family themselves have said is “probably true” but one which apparently has not influenced Zeman’s desire to appoint Mrs. Livia as ambassador in Bratislava.
What was far more important than Bratislava, however, was the position at stake for the new Czech ambassador to Moscow, the seat of which has been vacant for almost a year, a situation which is now untenable, because of the importance, especially in economic terms, that Russia represents to the Czech Republic. In this regard, the recent visit in Moscow from the now former Prime Minister Petr Nečas was quite significant, along with the following mega delegation of Czech businessmen attracted by the Russian market and funds.
Nečas thus set his sights mainly on the economic aspect of the issue, leaving the civil rights issue in the background and also the authoritarianism of the Putin era. So much so that, according to the headlines of the Kremlin’s Voice of Russia, between Moscow and Prague “a new era is starting, one of mutual pragmatic cooperation, and unencumbered by ideological ballast”. Precisely the goal prophesied several times by Zeman.
For the seat of Czech ambassador in Russia, Hradcany’s tenant would like the Communist Euro MP Vladimír Remek, a former cosmonaut, and hero of the pre ‘89 Czechoslovakia, decorated by Moscow as a “Hero of the Soviet Union”.
Regarding Remek Schwarzenberg, ironically but also with a hint of bitterness said: “I do not think it is enough to know Russian and have close long-standing relations with the country to be a good ambassador in Moscow”.
It is a fact however, that Prague cannot afford to leave this seat vacant. Among the things at stake are the aims of expansion in Czech exports, which are in crisis following the collapse of the EU market, the demand for Russian investment, contracts for the supply of gas and oil and a contract of € 8-12 billion for the expansion of the Temelín nuclear power plant. In the running are also the American Westinghouse and the Russian consortium Mir.1200. The Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev along with Nečas have not failed to remind us how important it is to Moscow.
As was expected for some time, the Zeman-Schwarzenberg war, which paralyzed the entire network of seats of Czech Ambassadors from Switzerland to Belarus, from Denmark to Ireland, ended with the Head of State coming out on top. There was defeat again for the former foreign minister, who on several occasions had declared that he was unwilling, only for mere economic interests, to back down, especially regarding Russia. “These interests are not enough to overshadow the need to expose and criticize the standards of democracy and protection of human rights in Putin’s Russia”. Words that were aimed as much at the Kremlin as they were at Hradčany.
by Daniela Mogavero