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The Czech Republic at the start of 2013

March 1, 2013

prague castle

Nowadays, the Czech Republic has some troubling questions about its future, two areas of which will be covered here: should the Czechs join the Eurozone, and should the Communists be allowed to govern? It may be that this is a symptom of a partially-unresolved past.

The first question: will the Czechs be cashing in on the Euro?

Maybe, maybe not. The last Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, equated the European Union with the Soviet bloc. The new guy, Milos Zeman, scheduled to take over next week, seems a little more open to the idea, saying that he planned on hanging the flag of the European Union up at Prague castle, the seat of the Czech presidency. Mojmir Hampl, vice governor of the Czech national bank (appointed by Vaclav Klaus), had this to say: “The average Czech household says, ‘Thank God we don’t have to pay for these profligate Greeks.”’An adviser to former president Vaclav Havel (of “Power of the Powerless” fame) said that non-entry to the Euro was costing the Czechs money year-by-year, and that “Those Czechs like (President) Klaus who think having the koruna has saved us from the crisis, are living in a dream world.”

So, where does the debate stand? The president-elect says that he’ll put the question up to the Czech people, for a possible entry into the Euro by 2017 at the earliest. And Mr. Zeman doesn’t seem like the type to mess around.

zeman

A BBC article called him a hard-drinking chain smoker who puts down his opponents pretty wittily. Even though the Czech presidency doesn’t carry much day-to-day power, the capacity to appoint judges to courts and bankers to the National Bank are not necessarily things to ignore. And (this seems important) both presidential candidates were supporters of Euro-zone entry.

There’s a good bit of animosity hanging out under the surface here, probably dating back to World War II. After the election, a Czech website claimed a German newspaper said that an “unprecedented anti-German dirty campaign” had brought Zeman into power. As a result of this, some important personalities in Czech politics have told Mr. Zeman that he is not their president.

What else could possibly be coming back up from the bowels of history?

Certainly not the communists. Or maybe they could. About a year ago, a poll of Czechs found that the Communist party was the country’s second most popular. Foreign Policy’s James Kirchick cites the country’s first post-communist foreign minister, Jiri Dienstbier, as saying, “If it is a democratic party, we should treat it as any other democratic party, including coalition potential…The second possibility — it’s not a democratic party — and then such party is not allowed to be active, should be banned, according to our constitution and laws.” He went on to further clarify his position, saying,  “it’s not like they pose a threat to the democratic system in the country”, and that he would be open to a coalition partnership with them. That might just happen; there are 26 of them in the Czech parliament, or about half as many as President-elect Zeman’s Social Democratic party. Further, deals were signed in 10 of 13 Czech regions for a cooperative rule between the Social Democrats and the Communists. Lastly, a recent poll found that only 46% of Czechs felt that the country was better off now than under communist rule. The only thing standing in the way of a national coalition? A 1995 decision by the Social Democratic party to refuse government-level cooperation between themselves and the Communists.

So, then, there’s some trouble to overcome even in domestic politics, troubles about the past that seem to be translating into troubles about the future. It’s highly unlikely that a new communist dictatorship will spring up in the Czech Republic, but just how likely is it that the Czechs will integrate into the Eurozone? Questions abound, but only time will tell.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bunga permalink
    March 6, 2013 12:37 pm

    A minor clarification: there is no general ban on the communist party being part of the government. The 1995 issue is a ban which the general meeting of the Social Democratic Party decided to impose onto itself for government-level cooperation with the communists.

    • March 6, 2013 2:42 pm

      Thank you very much, Bunga! We’re glad people are reading the blog!

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