Klausová to be ambassador to Slovakia?

Livia Klausová, photo: CTK

President Miloš Zeman is pressing for the wife of his predecessor Václav Klaus to be named the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Slovakia. However, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – who Mr. Zeman beat to become head of state – is opposed to the appointment of Livia Klausová; he says the idea looks like payback for the former first lady’s support for Miloš Zeman during the presidential campaign.

Livia Klausová,  photo: CTK
Campaigning for the second round of a presidential election in January between Miloš Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg was bitter, with Mr. Zeman, the eventual winner, pulling no punches.

With foreign policy one of the main areas in which the head of state is active, some predicted that President Zeman would eventually butt heads with Mr. Schwarzenberg, who, as foreign minister, has ultimate authority in that field.

That scenario now appears to have come to pass, with reports on Thursday that Mr. Zeman has for some weeks been pushing for Livia Klausová, who was born in Bratislava, to be named the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Slovakia.

Mr. Zeman’s office has denied that the post would be a quid pro quo for the former first lady – and other members of his predecessor’s family – supporting his presidential bid.

For his part, Mr. Schwarzenberg says it does, however, look like a reward. That view is shared by some commentators, including Petr Drulák, the director of Prague’s Institute of International Affairs.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“The Klaus family’s contribution to the campaign mainly consisted in personal attacks against the foreign minister. Which was probably part of the campaign and nobody should wonder about it.

“But to reward then one of the members of the family with an important political post, which is actually the bailiwick of the Foreign Ministry, is a bit strange.

“Moreover, there has already been a career diplomat, who was supposed to go to Bratislava, who has been approved by the government, so this makes it even trickier. Even if Mrs. Klaus were exceptionally qualified for the function, which is not clear actually, it would be tricky.”

The majority of the Czech Republic’s ambassadors are career diplomats, with political appointments something that Karel Schwarzenberg has been keen to stamp out in his time at the ministry.

On the other hand, some may say that Livia Klausová, who has never held an elected position, has much to offer. She has, after all, spent a lot of time in the company of world leaders and speaks several languages, including of course her native Slovak. But will she ever be addressed as “your Excellency” in her hometown? Perhaps not, says Drulák.

“I find it very unlikely that the choice of the president will be confirmed by the government. That’s an outcome which I would not expect.

Karel Schwarzenberg | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio
“But on the other hand, the president has some leverage over the government, because he’s supposed to approve all the ambassadorial appointments, so he can exert pressure on the government, to push for his own choices.

“It will also depend on party politics – it will depend on how [Karel Schwarzenberg’s] TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats react to this.”

We shall see which side prevails. In the meantime, this could be the first notable skirmish in a lengthy foreign policy battle.