Are the Czechs and Austrians at war?

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

Listening to the news from this part of the world you might easily arrive at the conclusion that the Czech Republic and Austria are at war. What with controversy over the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant and the ongoing dispute over the post-war Benes decrees it has not been an easy time and one would be hard put to find a positive statement in Czech-Austrian relations these past few months...

Listening to the news from this part of the world you might easily arrive at the conclusion that the Czech Republic and Austria are at war. What with controversy over the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant and the ongoing dispute over the post-war Benes decrees it has not been an easy time and one would be hard put to find a positive statement in Czech-Austrian relations these past few months. Yet, behind the angry exchanges, ultimatums and insults which are the essence of news-reporting, is a normal, peaceful everyday existence. The majority of Austrians and the majority of Czechs don't have any feelings of hostility towards their neighbors. And in the border regions there is plenty of interaction. The two peoples have much in common. After all they were both once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Austrians frequently cross the border for an afternoon in the Czech Republic and now, twelve years after the fall of communism, Czechs too have acquired the means to cross the border for a day of shopping, entertainment and eating out in neighboring Austria. The days when Czechs would cross the border to window-shop with their lunch tucked away in their backpack are well and truly over. The crown is strong and a week of skiing in the Alps costs pretty much the same as a week of skiing in the Krkonose Mountains. For many inhabitants of the Czech border regions it is less expensive to shop in neighboring Austria than to travel "inland" to Brno, Jihlava or Èeské Budejovice. So they are doing just that and spending a fair amount of money in Austria. Today the threats of some Austrian politicians that if Temelin is not scrapped no Austrian would set foot in the Czech Republic no longer carry great weight. It is not just Czech entrepreneurs who are worried about loosing their Austrian clients, Austrian entrepreneurs are beginning to feel the same way. And none of those concerned - ie the inhabitants of the border regions have any intention of slamming the door. That particular door was closed for far too long and people are re-discovering the benefits and joys of normal co-existence. Politics is one thing and everyday life is another. I try to keep that in mind when I read the news.