Bavarian premier makes historic trip to Prague

Horst Seehofer (left), Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

The head of Germany’s biggest and most important region, Bavaria, is making a landmark visit to the Czech Republic. The two-day trip by minister president Horst Seehofer is the first ever being made by a Bavarian premier to its neighbour since the end of WWII. While relations have been complicated by recent history, this visit is putting the accent on the present and future.

Horst Seehofer (left), Petr Nečas, photo: CTK
Bavarian minister president Horst Seehofer announced moves to turn a new page in relations with the Czech Republic in spite of divided opinions about the past during a joint press conference with Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Monday.

Those past Bavarian-Czech relations have varied between cool and near freezing ever since WWII. One major reason for that is that many of the estimated 3.0 million Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia at the end of the war ended up in Bavaria. When hopes of a fast return turned to realisation that they were to be exiled for the long term, many turned into outright opponents of Czechoslovakia and the post war Beneš decrees that underpinned their expulsion.

Many of those former Sudeten Germans also allied themselves with Bavaria’s dominant political party, the right of centre Christian Social Union, often rising to prominent positions and anchoring the party in its Czech wariness and hostility.

Long-time CSU leader and minister president Edmund Stoiber for many years refused to visit the Czech Republic as long as the Beneš decrees continued in force. His wife was actually born near the west Bohemian spa resort of Karlovy Vary, better known then as Karlsbad.

The ‘B’ word did not surface in the joint press conference given by Horst Seehofer and Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas. Mr. Seehofer is not so close to the Sudeten lobby, although the head of the main Sudeten organisation was one of the members of the Bavarian delegation.

The Czech Prime Minister sought to put the stress on economic relations with Bavaria, which alone accounts for around a third of Czech exports to Germany, the country’s biggest trading partner. He also underlined ongoing transport, energy, cultural and education projects and the will to build on what has already begun.

One result from this historic meeting is a move to try and defuse Czech anger about stepped up controls on Czech drivers on the Bavarian side of the border, although Mr. Seehofer pointed out that these count for only around 1.0 percent of total police checks.

Czech and Bavarian interior ministers are to meet with the suggestion raised by the Bavarian leader that joint police checks could be carried out where possible as well as offering more transparency about his force’s actions.

The prospect has also been raised of regular top level Bavarian-Czech summits. After more than 50 years of stunted relations at this level there is still probably some catching up to do.