Václav Klaus (L) with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán
We have met with former Czech President and Prime Minister Václav Klaus during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Budapest on Friday, organized by the Center for Fundamental Rights. The Czech politician was highly critical of the approach that the current government of Petr Fiala has taken to regional co-operation, as well as its stance towards Hungary.
It appears that the Czech Republic had transitioned into a kind of American-style presidential system recently. You have a new president in Petr Pavel, who is very active, who seems to have taken it on himself to be the face and voice of Czechia in the world, while on the other hand you have a prime minister, who is very much under the radar, and whose name is seldom heard here in the Hungarian news.
I think this is, and is not true. We did not transition into a presidential system, and the new president’s activism is in some sense the due to the fact that he is at the beginning of his career. I think at some point he will understand where his proper place is. The problem is somewhere else though. It is at the weakness of our current prime minister, in the weakness of the standard system of political parties. This is the Czech Republic’s problem. Political parties simply disappeared, as if they did not exist, the current five-party coalition is an unworkable model, which cannot govern. They can never agree on anything, so it is less than ideal.
There are mass demonstrations going on in Prague, I was wondering whether these crowds represent a minority experience, or whether they are the voice of a silent majority, the larger part of Czech society. The people that you hear there speak about them not having a voice, nor a representation in the current Czech parliament.
I think it is right that these demonstrations are going on, meaning that this is a kind of a signal being sent out towards the government and the prime minister. In this sense yes. On the other hand, we must not overrate these protests. These are really only a minority phenomenon, and that there are politically active people who are demonstrating does not automatically meant that they are the voice of the majority of Czech society. Czech society is sometimes unhappy about what is going on, but in principle the public is not ready for some kind of a revolutionary change. So I think these demonstrations are not representative of the essence of what the average Czech thinks.
Photo: MTI/Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Fischer Zoltán
We are currently witnessing a stagnation in Czech-Hungarian relations. What do you think Hungarian leaders can do to reduce this distance and make a convincing argument towards their Czech partners about the importance of regional cooperation?
In the Czech Republic a five-party coalition won the elections, and these are forces that listen to Brussels, Berlin and Washington. They are not interested in Budapest or Warsaw. This is pretty much all that I could say to that. I regard this as tragic, a tragic miscalculation.
Is there no scope for a gesture from the Hungarian side that could change this state of affairs?
The only gesture could be the resignation of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, this would be the only gesture that a certain group of Czech politicians would welcome.
Featured Image: Facebook Institut Václava Klause