Analyst: Ambassadorial dispute tests limits of new president
The first post-election conflict between former competing presidential candidates – foreign minister Karel Schwazenberg and current president Milos Zeman - broke out a few weeks ago, when the two politicians clashed over ambassadorial appointments. Today the two met at Prague Castle in an attempt to defuse the row. Petr Drulák, the director of Prague’s Institute of International Relations spoke to Radio Prague about what is unusual about this dispute.
“We now have a new president, and he is trying to define the limits of his competences and is trying to test those limits as they were previously set, so it is not an unusual situation. There were tensions concerning ambassador appointments under previous presidents as well – both president Havel and president Klaus.
“What is new in this situation is the media attention, which is the result of the high profiles of the candidates favored by President Zeman – Mr Remek and Mrs Klausová. What is also new is that both of these people supported Mr Zeman in his presidential campaign, so this makes the issue more political.”
Do you give credence to the statement made by some members of President Zeman’s staff that he is the first popularly elected president and he should carry more weight in these kinds of decisions?
If we look more specifically at the position of the ambassador to Slovakia. Mrs Klausová, who is being nominated to this post, has evoked most controversy in the media. Do you feel that it was an appropriate decision on the part of President Zeman to nominate someone without any political or foreign affairs experience?
“What makes this choice controversial is actually that she took an active part in Mr Zeman’s campaign in a way that was seen by many people as, again, quite controversial. In the last week [before the second round] the presidential campaign was very brutal, and she was part of the brutal attacks coming from Mr Zeman aimed at Mr Schwazenberg who is the foreign minister and who would be her boss. So this aspect makes a very controversial and very problematic figure as a possible ambassador to Slovakia.”
You said that this is a normal dispute, but at the same time it was expected that Mr Zeman and Mr Schawrzenberg will clash given their competing presidential campaigns. Is this an indication that they will keep having disputes over foreign affairs in the future?