Letter from Prague
There's a Czech saying that goes "v nouzi poznas pritele" - the equivalent of the English saying "a friend in need is a friend indeed". For months now, or I should say years, we've been reporting on the Czech Republic's controversies with Germany and Austria. Mainly the Temelin nuclear power plant dispute and the so called Benes decrees controversy. Sometimes the exchange is so angry and the caliber so heavy it suggests the central European neighbors are at war. However the three had no reason to doubt their mutual loyalty in time of trouble.
However the three had no reason to doubt their mutual loyalty in time of trouble. The floods which swept across central Europe recently washed away thorny debates - at least for the time being - and had friends helping friends across the border. A team of German firefighters who drove across the border into flood ravaged south Bohemia said they were welcomed as heroes by the locals.
"I couldn't believe they came over with all the trouble in their own country. I'm truly impressed," one of the locals told the media later.
And although the Czech Republic itself was the hardest hit of the three this did not prevent Czech emergency crews from helping in flood-wrecked parts of Austria at a time of dire need. Both the Austrians and the Germans contributed humanitarian aid, heavy equipment and sent their own technical advisors to Prague.
This helpful attitude remains in the wake of this terrible natural disaster. Facing a common enemy has somewhat shifted priorities albeit differences remain. When you switch on the prime time news nowadays or pick up a newspaper it is immediately evident that the focus is no longer on that which divides us but on what we have in common and what we can try and do to prevent such massive floods in the future. This common enemy has fueled close cooperation on issues such as flood defenses and regional cooperation.
Debate and cooperation are probably the best way of achieving greater understanding, and erasing years of prejudice and bitterness. They say that every cloud has a silver lining. Well, we could have done without this particular cloud but if it was inevitable and I were asked to name one good thing that's come out of it - I'd say that here in central Europe we are all pulling together again - united against the odds. Maybe we can build on this new trust and take it further.