>Czech politics: euroscptic dodges questions, but nurses ambitions

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Arch Czech Civic Democrat ‘euro-realist’, former ODS Shadow Foreign Minister and head of the party’s group in the European Parliament, Jan Zahradil gives an online interview to readers of the Czech centre-right daily Lidové noviny (‘Výslech Jana Zahradila’, 16 January). Both the questions and the answers are somewhat more substantive than the usual ranting/spin that these exercises usually produce, although Zahradil is suitably evasive and circumspect when he needs to be. He confirms PM Topolánek’s account that he declined the post of Foreign Minster in the first (unsuccessful) right-wing Green coalition formed immediately after last years elections but denies he was afraid to take on the post (as Topolánek claimed in a characteristic outburst), saying fairly that he would be ‘a red rag to a bull’ for Czech euro-enthusiasts (that’s the whole of the Czech political spectrum bar the Communists unfortunately for him); said that he had himself suggested Alexander Vondra as an alternative (who didn’t in the end get the post, but as consolation prize becomes Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, so will presumably exercise a moderate check of Schwarzenberg’s more independent, europhile inclinations – as a formidable independent he will hardly be accountable to the Green Party who nominated him); expressed regret that ODS finance spokesman and flat tax advocate Vlastimil Tlustý is not in the government and therefore not in the ODS leadership; refuses to speculate about Czechs membership of the eurozone but mentions speculation that Italy might drop out and adds that the CR will only join ‘when it is economically beneficial for us’ (not quite a textbook account of the acquis communautaire); stresses his liberal social views (pro-registered partnership law) to distinguish himself from Topolánek and duck a question about Topolánek’s criticism of Klaus’s ‘revivalist obsession’ (which he rather shares – yes, you can be a social liberal and a rampant Czech nationalist); rejects any of idea of a Christian Democrat/Civic Democrat /Social Democrat coalition (Topolánek was trying to broker one and his deputy and rival Pavel Bém was still more in favour); claims that he hasn’t left Czech politics as he is still in the ODS leadership, but denies that he took a place in the EP’s Development Aid committee, rather than the more high profile Foreign Affairs Committee to leave more time for politicking in the CR. Rather unconvincingly, he argued that the former was more important has it had a ‘budgetary capacity’ that the Foreign Affair committee. Pull the other one.
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