Current Affairs War of words erupts in Prague over EU’s fiscal treaty
Top Czech officials have engaged in an unusually strong exchange of insults over the government’s refusal to join the European Union’s new fiscal treaty. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Prime Minister Petr Nečas and President Václav Klaus engaged in a crossfire which has put more strain on the fragile coalition government, and which illustrates the deep divisions between the major Czech political forces in their stance on European integration.
The most serious conflict so far between the leaders of the two senior coalition parties broke over an issue which deeply divides them: the future of European integration and the Czech attitude to it.
Czech Foreign Minister and leader of the pro-European coalition TOP 09 party Karel Schwarzenberg took serious issue with the prime minister’s decision to reject the EU’s fiscal compact, accusing him of damaging the country’s interests. Mr Schwarzenberg also dismissed the prime minister’s reasoning, which he said was impossible to take seriously. The cabinet leader’s real motivation, according to Mr Schwarzenberg, was fear of a strong eurosceptic wing of his party, the Civic Democrats, and their unofficial leader, President Klaus.
Mr Schwarzenberg’s remarks put Prime Minister Petr Nečas on the warpath. At a special news conference on Wednesday, the prime minister launched an unprecedented tirade against a member of his government.
“I consider his remarks exceptionally unfortunate, exceptionally inconsiderate and exceptionally unprofessional. If he wasn’t a man of respected age, I would say they were a sign of a young man’s rashness. These remarks were not uttered at some folk festival somewhere. These are very serious issues that can affect the political situation in the country as well as our international relations.”
Prime Minister Petr Nečas also reminded the foreign minister of his role in the government, and said he should focus more on his own job.
“Czech entrepreneurs have expressed serious complaints and laments about the Foreign Ministry’s inaction. Representatives of Czech industry consider the ministry’s activities in this field as very insufficient. I would appreciate if the foreign minister dedicated himself to his ministry including the crucial task of supporting Czech exports.”
Mr Nečas earned a pat on the back from President Václav Klaus who considers any further European integration an evil to be fought at all costs, and who believes the planned fiscal union is a “tragic mistake”.
Mr Schwarzenberg, who is on a four-day trip to Israel, said he would again raise the issue upon his return. He had earlier threatened to quit the government over the fiscal compact which would most likely bring the centre-right Czech government to the brink of collapse.