Posted by Ginny on November 25th, 2008 (All posts by Ginny)
Helen will have informed commentary on the EU; still, I couldn’t resist putting together a few links about the irrepressible Klaus. He’s the next president in the rotating European Union. It’s hard to see someone of his vitality as “reluctant” but it’s also hard to see him as president of the EU about which he has so many doubts. Sure, during our election, I argued that it is generally a good idea to have someone like the body over which he presides. Still, in sheer entertainment value, Klaus may be a plus.
In The Prague Post, Ondrej Bouda notes what may be a recurring problem:
The country’s head of state, President Václav Klaus, was scheduled to attend the logo presentation, but decided to cancel the engagement after he once again tried to marginalize the EU.
Nor was that the only way in which he was, well, undiplomatic:
During a Nov. 10–12 official visit to Ireland, Klaus sat down to a friendly dinner with another notorious anti-EU-campaigner, Declan Ganley. While addressing journalists after the private soiree, Klaus reportedly voiced his support for Ganley — whose organization Libertas is held responsible for the Irish “No” vote on the Lisbon Treaty in a June referendum — during the upcoming European parliamentary elections and criticized the Irish government for its pro-EU stand.
Klaus later provided a bizarre defense of his actions in the face of criticism by local and European observers. “I see no reason why I should not meet with him,” he said, pointing out that his predecessor, Václav Havel, used to meet with international dissidents on official trips. “I, too, am now meeting one EU dissident. I consider myself to be another one.”
Not surprisingly, his attitude was not that of many other Czech officials – some of whom rightly complained that Ganley was not a dissident in the tradition of Vaclav Havel. Still, as the author concluded:
Clearly, there are some interesting times ahead, as the Irish Examiner observed: “Forget sugar, it looks like the Czech presidency could be as explosive as another famous Czech invention: Semtex.”
Another story quotes those who find him the rudest of European dignitaries. But a short profile, “A Fiery Czech”, by Dan Bilefsky in the Herald Tribune, traces his attitude back to the eighties, when a Russian secret agent had been sent to infiltrate a Czech group; Klaus was already famous for his fervent advocacy of the free market, but the agent remarked on Klaus’ equally famous arrogance:
“His behavior and attitudes reveal that he feels like a rejected genius,” the agent noted in his report, which has since been made public. “He shows that whomever does not agree with his views is stupid and incompetent.”
Well, older, he remains known for both. His early reading of Milton Friedman was, apparently, important to him as was the rather significant counter-example of communism. He respects Thatcher and keeps her picture in his office. Clearly, the Czechs are not that uncomfortable with him since they elect him, but many vocal ones are. He combines free market advocacy combines with pragmatism and populism. The combination apparently leads him to a more conciliatory attitude toward Putin than many find attractive. His career has, unsurprising in someone of his temperament, had highs and lows. Whatever your perspective, though, his six month turn at the EU is likely to offer entertainment.
He also appears to be less than helpful to the press. I did a post some time ago on his response to an interviewer’s question about global warming. (“I will pretend that I haven’t heard you. Perhaps only Mr Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person hardly.” ) He has a certain bravado; I can’t imagine many politicians turning down an interview when such a profile was being written nor telling the Herald Tribune that the questions they’d submitted were “peculiar.”
The Prague Postarticle begins by discussing the various logos. Do they have a new one with every president? As someone who was on the quick side of printing, I would welcome such frivolity, but other than a printer, who can see this as sensible? Surely I must have misunderstood and that isn’t what they do. (My son-iin-law has arrived and says little goes out of the President’s office and that is the only place the logo would be used. Such discussion and unveiling seems even more a waste.)
Also, I want to note that I know little about Klaus – I don’t intend to defend nor condemn him in the comments below. If I wanted endless contention, I’d join my husband’s organization.
What’s with Czechs and logos anyway? My husband is active in a Texas group that has discussed its logo for years – with many angry meetings, long and abrasive letters, snarky side comments, and endless cases of hurt pride, rudeness, and generally uncivil behavior. He keeps noting that the vote was in a couple of years ago. That doesn’t stop some from proposing a “re-vote” fairly often. (I guess that’s another similarity to the EU.) The organization had gotten along for over fifty years without a logo and managed to hand out numerous scholarships, establish an endowed chair, sponsor annual artists in residence, and scholarly exchanges. I’m not quite sure why they need a logo. But if they do, can’t they just accept the one a long-term member and architect designed? Talk about fighting pointless battles – you know, there are things out there that might be worth the time.