Criticism for prime minister's Czech-Bavarian discussion forum

25-01-2001

During an official visit to Bavaria on Tuesday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and leading Bavarian politicians agreed to establish a Czech-Bavarian discussion forum. One of the main issues that is likely to be discussed is the situation of the Sudeten Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after WW II. This move, however, has been criticised by leading members of the Communist Party and the Civic Democratic Party. More from Lucie Krupickova:

High on the agenda of Mr Zeman´s visit in Bavaria were discussions with representatives of the German car manufacturer BMW. The company is looking to open a new car parts plant abroad. If BMW were to invest in the Czech Republic, this would bring the state DEM 10 billion, and create 3,000 new jobs.

Mr Zeman met with his Bavarian counterpart, Edmund Stoiber and they agreed to create a Czech-Bavarian discussion forum. This should include talks about Czech integration in the European structures, plus economic, educational and administrative issues. According to Mr Stoiber, Sudeten Germans, who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, and who are a powerful in Bavaria, should also be involved in the forum meetings. Mr Zeman and Mr Stoiber both excluded any discussion on Sudeten German property claims.

The idea of a Czech-Bavarian forum has met with strong criticism from leading of two Czech political parties: Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus and Communist Party Chairman Miroslav Grebenicek. Mr Grebenicek expressed disappointment over Zeman´s intention to begin dialogue with Bavaria, and especially over the inclusion of the Sudeten German issue. Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus said he was completely amazed at Mr Zemans's change in attitude towards Bavaria. The Czech Prime Minister, said Mr Klaus, has always claimed that the only partner for the Czech government is the German federal government, and that he would not hold discussions with regional representatives.

The issue of the Sudeten Germans and their claims for restitution is an emotional and difficult one in the Czech Republic, and although the forum is not meant to discuss property issues, it is likely be viewed with concern both in the Czech Republic and Germany. With DEM 10 billion and three thousand jobs at stake, this is a gamble that the prime minister seems willing to take.

25-01-2001