Kavan comes home to face the music

29-07-2002

Former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan arrived in the Czech Republic this weekend to face the music over the Karel Srba affair. Mr Srba, a former senior Foreign Ministry official hired by Mr Kavan, is in custody over his alleged involvement in an attempt to kill Mlada Fronta Dnes journalist Sabina Slonkova, known for her high-profile exposés of corruption at the ministry. Mr Kavan, who was in New York last week in his new post as chairman of the United Nations General Assembly, denies any knowledge of the plot, and has rejected calls for his resignation. So what responsibility - if any - does Mr Kavan bear in the Karel Srba case? A question Rob Cameron put earlier to political analyst Jiri Pehe.

Jan Kavan and Kofi Annan, photo: CTKJan Kavan and Kofi Annan, photo: CTK "Well I think that there's something in any democratic political culture that we could call political responsibility. Even if Jan Kavan is not responsible directly for the various doings of Mr Srba, he is certainly responsible for bringing Mr Srba to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for keeping Mr Srba there even when there were various scandals already produced by this man. So certainly Mr Kavan has political responsibility that he cannot disclaim."

Mr Kavan also says that he only found out very recently that Mr Srba was a military intelligence agent. Do you think that claim is credible, that he didn't know?

"I don't believe that."

You think he did know.

"I think that he did know, and - again - if he didn't know, then it's a serious omission of the minister or the people who work for the personnel department at the ministry. People in such high positions, who are constantly exposed to state secrets and so on, have to undergo very thorough security checks. I simply don't believe that either people around the minister or the minister himself didn't know that Mr Srba was an agent of military intelligence."

To be fair to Mr Kavan, it does seem that a good proportion of the Czech media does have it in for him, especially Mlada Fronta Dnes. The articles they've run about him over the past four years have been extremely nasty, often vindictive. Some have said that this whole thing is just a campaign constructed to discredit Mr Kavan - how do you see that?

"Well I would not be able to comment on whether this is a campaign being run to discredit Mr Kavan. Certainly I do agree that some Czech media, some Czech newspapers have been unjust to Mr Kavan. On the other hand I would also say that Jan Kavan has unfortunately been involved in a lot of scandals, has been surrounded by people who are not always the kind of people who should be working for the civil service in a democratic society. He has a tremendous talent for creating various scandals and affairs. So if various newspapers have wondered in the past about his credentials, I think those questions were legitimate. On the other hand again, I have to say that in some cases some journalists have gone too fair in guessing and creating stories that were not always substantiated."

Are you satisfied with how the new government of Vladimir Spidla has dealt with this affair so far?

"Yes, I think that Mr Spidla could not have done much more than he has done. Certainly I condone his cautiousness in this affair, when he says, look certainly we have to be careful to make any connections between what Mr Kavan is doing now and this affair. He has talked to Mr Kavan, and I'm sure that if any direct link between the Srba case and Mr Kavan is established, then Mr Spidla is the kind of man who would make Jan Kavan pay. But at this point he's got no reason to do that."

29-07-2002