Current Affairs Minister Schwarzenberg accuses power giant ČEZ of secretly funding political parties
Foreign Minister, and coalition TOP 09 party leader Karel Schwarzenberg has accused the state-controlled electricity firm ČEZ of bankrolling Czech political parties. In an interview for the news-website aktualne.cz this week, Mr Schwarzenberg said it was “a public secret” that ČEZ had financed parties – except his own group, TOP 09. The serious accusations – presented with no evidence or further details – were dismissed by politicians across the board – with the notable exception of František Bublan, a Social Democrat MP, and former Interior Minister and head of the Czech intelligence service. But commentator Erik Best believes Mr Schwarzenberg might have had his very own reasons for speaking out.
“I think it’s difficult to say exactly what Mr Schwarzenberg had in mind; I see two main possibilities. One is that he wanted to attract attention to himself and raise his profile a bit. There was just a poll out this week that showed that his rating for direct presidential elections is only about 14 percent, compared with 27 percent for ex-PM Jan Fischer and 25 percent for the last candidate to fail to win against Mr Klaus, Jan Švejnar.
“From that standpoint, his wish of becoming president, and I think it is his wish to become president, seems a bit a weak at this point. He might have wanted to draw attention to himself and make himself look like the anti-corruption candidate that he ran for before.
“The other possibility is that it is be a direct attack by Mr Schwarzenberg and [Finance Minister and fellow TOP 09 official] Miroslav Kalousek at the Civic Democrats because they would the ones who you would normally suspect to be getting money from ČEZ. So it’s difficult to judge what Mr Schwarzenberg means because he’s refused to elaborate on it.”
Politicians from all parties rejected Mr Schwarzenberg’s accusations – with the exception of Social Democrat MP and former Interior Minister and head of the intelligence service František Bublan. Don’t you think that is a serious claim?
“Certainly the comment by Mr Bublan who’s now the head of the lower house’s security committee is a very serious claim. Judging by the reactions of his party colleagues, I think it’s something that he’s going to be made to retract because Social Democrat chair leader Bohuslav Sobotka came out and denied it of course.
“There is a real risk here to Mr Sobotka himself who was the finance minister during the time that some of this illegal activity would have been taking place, and that would make him directly responsible because it’s the finance minister who exercises the shareholders’ rights of the Czech state which is the majority shareholder in ČEZ. So Mr Sobotka would be open to criticism here.
“There is also the fact that Mr Sobotka’s biggest ally and friend is Radek Pokorný who is well-known for being in the employment of ČEZ, and also for being a lobbyist, so assumptions would immediately arise that he was somehow involved in this. Mr Sobotka as party chairman has every reason to try to convince Mr Bublan not to be talking in this way.”