>Czech Republic: Is there a euro-realist in the house?

>Did someone say ‘Euro-realism?’ The complicated politics of Czech European and policy formation just got a whole lot more complicated with the appointment of ‘euro-realist’ extraordinaire Jan Zahradil as the PM’s special representative for negotiations on the European Constitution. His deputy – in what Zahradil explained as an unofficial and confidential role negotiating, probing and assessing options for a future constitutional treaty – however, will be former Defence Minister (in the short-lived 1998 caretaker government) Jiří Šedivý, who, formally speaking, is the number two Minister to Alexandr Vondra, the Deputy PM for European Affairs. Interviewed, Zahradil claimed that he wasn’t actually opposed to a treaty document of some kind, possibily even included bits of the current Constitutional Treaty) and, if necessary, would bite the bullet and merely act as an intermediary for options he didn’t agree with.

This leaves a confused situation of no less four heavyweight politicians (and one respected academic and policy specialist) committed to various degree of Euro-realism having a finger in the policy making pie:

1. President Václav Klaus, who has a small constitutional role in foreign policy and a larger informal role; sees ‘Europa-ism’ as a the latest compositecollectivist threat to (liberal) civilization as we know it.

2, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – independent Czech aristocrat with connections to Havel and long-time former exile in Austria, nominated by euro-enthusiast Green Party

3. Alexandr Vondra, independent long-time foreign policy specialist and committed Atlanticist; ex-Chartist with connections to Havel in 1990s, but recently joined the Civic Democrats and (when nominated as Foreign Minsiter in June) promised to steer a middle way between vapid europhilia and negative, overly ideological ‘euro-realism’ (associated with Zahradil) by pursuing only eurosceptic conceptions of Czech national interest where a broad EU-wide coalition could be formed (e.g. CAP reform)

4. Jan Zahradil – no introduction needed. Head of Civic Democrat MEPs in Brussels. Advocates ‘flexible integration’ as only way forward and best means to promote competition (different national economic models) rather than rather paranoid ideological rejection of EU promoted by Klaus. In practice, this integration, would be so flexible it would, – free trade aside – be almost entirely optional.

5. Jiří Šedivý. Security and defence specialist and political consultant briefly turned Defence Minister in Topolánek’s first failed attempt at a minority government last year. Not to be confused with diplomat and former Foreign Minister in 1998 caretaker government Jaroslav.

Naturally, they all claim that they agree on everything and no one could hold a cigarette paper between them….

This is either a very cunning plan by Prime MinisterTopolánek (not known for his interest in or knowledge of foreign affairs) to have a rather vague, mildly euro-sceptic foreign policy by default or a product of coalition bargaining and bargaining within the Civic Democrats.

However, there, predictably was little earliy sign of compromise on the part of Zahradil and Klaus. Echoing Topolánek’s more restrainted putting across of the Czech position at a meeting with Merkel (Constitution in existing form is in same state as Monty Python’s “ex-parrot”).HN citing Euroosberver recounts that Zahradil and Klaus have already gone into action (or at least gone straight onto the record) in opposing Angela Merkel’s plans to revive the derailed Constitution making process. Zahradil uses the key phrase ‘Europe of Democracies’ – anyone who read the Minority Report entitled “A Europe of Democracies”which he and a handful of eurosceptic delegates drewadvicating a up before walking out of the European Convention can have little doubt what that means.

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