Coalition at odds over state secretary for EU affairs


A proposal to establish a state secretary for EU affairs, approved by the Czech cabinet on Wednesday, has divided the ruling coalition. While the proposal was pushed through by the Civic Democratic Party and Public Affairs the third party in government, TOP09, remains strongly opposed to the move which it claims to be in violation of the coalition agreement. The party, which holds the foreign ministry, fears the new post will detract from its powers and has demanded coalition talks on the issue. Petr Drulák, head of the Prague-based Institute of International Relations, says enforcing the decision on TOP 09 would not be a good move.

“I believe that the current situation is really unfortunate. This kind of decision needs to be made by consensus, with the agreement of all key players. You cannot enforce a unilateral idea on others. So if this post actually comes into being despite opposition from the foreign minister it will highly complicate the situation. The foreign minister is worried that important competences relating to EU affairs will be transferred from the Foreign Ministry to the prime minister’s office which is why he was reluctant to agree to this.”

We have often seen in the past that the Czech Republic sends out confusing signals - if not opposing stands – to Brussels. I am referring to the president and the government – can this move – can one official resolve this?

“Well, in the current circumstances I do not believe that it would help at all. On the one hand, we have these two tracks that you mentioned –the president and the government - which is unfortunate enough and now yesterday’s decision has added to the confusion because now it seems clear that we will have two tracks inside the government as well– that of the prime minister and that of the foreign minister. So the real danger is that the situation will be even more confusing than before.”

The ruling coalition,  photo: Archive of the Government of the Czech Republic
TOP 09 is talking about a violation of the coalition agreement while the other two parties deny this – how can that be?

“Well, political agreements are usually open texts that allow a variety of interpretations. So if you have an agreement between three parties and one of them feels that in its interpretation the agreement was broken then you have a problem and the three parties now have to sit down together and resolve it.”

How would you assess the Czech Republic’s performance in this respect? Do you feel that we really have a serious problem coordinating our stand on EU matters?

“I would say that in the past year the Czech Republic tended to be rather passive in Brussels. I am not saying there was any major problem, any major issues which we had neglected, but we failed to clarify our position on a variety of issues. That is something that is unlikely to be remedied after yesterday’s decision.”

Can it be remedied at all when very often the president says one thing and the government another?

“I don’t believe that the two-track problem between the government and the president is so vital, because, after all, it is the government which calls the shots. So in this respect, if the government was able to formulate a clear position - it would help a lot.”