>Topolánek: From TotalPolitics to total meltdown?

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TotalPolitics.com very flatteringly email me to ask for posts to the survey they have carried out among MEPs. A ‘staggering’ 70 per cent of British and Irish MEPs and the majority of MEPs across Europe believe they are less respected than their domestic legislators. I was less than staggered.
Rather more interesting, however, is the magazine’s interview with Czech PM Miroslav Topolánek on the prospects of the Czech EU Presidency, especially as I had the bad luck to miss Topol’s lecture at the LSE yesterday due to dose of flu.

TotalPoliticsgives a fair summary of the awkwardness Klaus-Topolánek relationship, but rather overlooks the fact that with the Czech EU Presidency virtually upon us the Topolánek government and President Klaus do not seem to have worked any modus vivendi or division of labour about who will do what in terms of representing the CR during the six months it will be at the head of the EU.

The Total Politics report’s comment that “[t[he Czech Republic is the first of the Warsaw Pact countries to take on the Presidency” also grated a little: strictly speaking true, of course although Slovenia was actually the first post-communist CEE new member state to preside, Presumably is a piece of Czech spin.

What the Czechs – or, at least, Topolánek and various government ministers – wouldn’t give for some dull-as-ditchwater Slovene style consensus? I mean there is actually quite a lot of consensus on European and foreign policy issues across the political spectrum, Communists and Klaus apart, but the rumbustious and adversial nature of domestic Czech politics just now is rocking the boat even more than the Klaus crusade against Lisbon and the chimera of a European superstate.

The Czech parliament has just, for the first time ever, rejected deployment levels in foreign peacekeeping missions, despite concessions to the Social Democrats over proposed troop numbers in Afghanistan. Two Greens and one Christian Democrat abstained, while Communist and Social Democrats were solidly against. And, literally as I write, the opposition has just voted through the abolition of charges for prescription medicines. This time, reports aktualne.cz three Civic Democrat deputies long opposed to Topolánek on a mixture of personal and ideological grounds (pro-flat tax, anti-Lisbon) Vlastimil Tlustý, Jan Schwippel, Juraj Raninec, absented themselves from the Chamber, as did a further ODS deputy Jan Klas and one Christian Democrat, Libor Ježek. The Christian Democrats have long held reservations about charging for medicines, although a deal was supposed to have been reached a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats are trying to play hardball about some form of political truce or understanding with the government to allow the Czech EU Presidency to pass smoothly. They will do it, they say, in return for early legislative parliamentary elections next year. Given the state of the polls – which suggest the Social Democrats would win so handsomely they might even to able to govern as a single party majority government – this invitation to commit political suicide stands no chance of being accepted.

The scrapping of charges will, of course, be overturned by the Senate, where the government still has a reliable majority, and 400 or 500 Czech troops will go on serving in Afghanistan under some kind of ad hoc emergency arrangement, but, the goverment looks pretty shaky. For some the temptation to just press head and destabilize EU2009.cz regardless if it meaning finishing off Topolánek must be enormous….

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