Much discussion but little change at Green Party national convention

Martin Bursik, photo: CTK

Environment Minister Martin Bursik won two big battles this weekend. At a Green Party national convention, he went a long way towards persuading his colleagues to support the stationing of a US radar system on Czech territory. He was also re-elected chairman and his most loyal colleagues his deputies. But while Mr Bursik celebrates, his party faces a barrage of criticism.

Matej Stropnicky,  photo: CTK
Are the Greens green enough? A question raised this weekend by party member Matej Stropnicky, who voiced fears that the party had derailed in an effort to stay in government. Instead of "green", he says, it is now taking up the colour of the governing coalition Civic Democrats - "blue". And Mr Stropnicky is not alone with this opinion. Political commentator Lukas Vales:

"Martin Bursik was very successful because for the first time in the Greens' history they are a parliamentary party with four government ministers. But the Green Party in the Czech Republic is very different from the Green parties in western Europe. It is not in the middle of the political spectrum or on the left but rather on the right because it is not the first party that Martin Bursik is in. He was a member of the Christian Democratic Party and I am afraid that it is really mainly about his old political position. I don't think that the Green Party programme is based firstly on the environment."

Martin Bursik,  photo: CTK
Green Party leader Martin Bursik himself rejects criticism that he is not following traditional party lines. The government's policy programme concentrates on more environmental issues than ever before. It is only natural for a party to compromise if it is in government with two other parties, he says.

Of the thirty-five speakers who took part in a debate over the radar station this weekend, most of them opposed it. Some even called the United States a global parasite that should not be allowed to influence the lives of Czech residents. But in the end, Martin Bursik won with a compromise proposal to support the US scheme on the condition that it gets the green light from NATO.

Ulrike Lunacek with Martin Bursik,  photo: CTK
In Brussels, the European Greens, who clearly oppose the US radar scheme, have been careful not to criticise their Czech colleagues. European Greens spokeswoman Ulrike Lunacek attended the convention in Prague:

"As the European Green Party, it is true that we are afraid that such a system would rather be a threat to European security and stability than an asset. But we have to accept the decision that the party has taken and as I understand, it is not the final decision yet. Of course it's true that the countries that were under the Warsaw Pact have a different history than the western countries have. Green parties also have a different history. Look at their record on environmental issues but also on issues like gender balance - they have a gender balance in their parliamentary seats and their governing positions which no other party has."