Human rights at the center of a new government controversy
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas has come under criticism from some members of his government, several Czech NGOs and even exporters over his statement about human rights and their relation to the economy. Mr Nečas said that support for the Dalai Lama or jailed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot might have a negative impact on trade relations. This earned him accusations that his words ran contrary to the country’s official foreign policy.
“I would like to mention two such instances. One is the artificial and disingenuous adoration for the Russian group Pussy Riot, whose actions were the height of bad taste, and in no way represent freedom and democracy. Nevertheless, some politicians do get carried away by this fashionable trend, and it has a clear impact on export.”
The second instance the prime minister mentioned was the support for independent Tibet and its leader the Dalai Lama. Mr Nečas insinuated that support for these issues were careless and even superficial and may negatively influence trade relations with countries whose internal affairs are criticized.
“That statement should not have been made at all. It belongs at internal government discussions. Members of the government should represent the interest of the state when they speak publicly. Some things they just have to accept and some things just should not be said out loud. The prime minister’s statement creates tension and disunity in the government. One of the basic rules of trade negotiations is not to speak about politics, but it’s not because of some sort of fears. I just wouldn’t talk about human rights, even though, of course, we want them to be respected, but it just doesn’t belong in discussions about trade.”
“I would put the statement of the prime minister into a different context, because it is mainly about domestic politics. The prime minister and the foreign minister have different ideas about foreign policy and institutional positions and they represent two different parties. So I see this as a way for the prime minister to distance himself from the foreign minister.”
Several Czech non-profit organizations also strongly criticized the prime minister, most notably Fórum 2000, founded by Václav Havel. The group released a statement expressing concern the Czech Republic may shift from its “principled position” of standing up to authoritarian regimes.