President Klaus criticized for planned U.N. speech on climate change

Vaclav Klaus

President Vaclav Klaus has been criticised by a number of Czech politicians for a speech he is going to deliver at a conference on climate change held by the Secretary General of the U.N. in New York. While some say Mr Klaus should not express his personal opinions on the matter but rather the official position of the Czech Republic, others fear that his speech might harm Czech prospects of securing a non-permanent seat in the U.N.'s Security Council.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus - critical of environmentalists' view on global warming - is going to be busy during his trip to New York later this month. A day before the start of the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations, Vaclav Klaus will speak at a conference on climate change convened by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Environment Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Martin Bursik, of the Green Party, told Czech TV on Sunday that Mr Klaus' speech could harm the Czech Republic's prospects of gaining a non-permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council because many countries around the world are already experiencing effects of what the Czech president says is only a natural process.

"According to the talks our diplomats have been having with ambassadors to the U.N., some countries are in immediate danger posed by global warming. Many countries rely on fishing; some fish depend on coral reefs and half of them have disappeared due to the rise in ocean temperature. There are also countries that are experiencing a rise of sea level that has gone up by 17 cm over the last hundred years."

But the actual message of the speech - whether or not global warming is caused by human activity - is not at the core of the matter. According to some Czech politicians, including the leader of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek, Mr Klaus' appearance at the conference could be seen by the international community as the official position of the Czech Republic. As Czechs will take over the presidency of the European Union in 2009, one of the top issues on its agenda will be global warming and new European energy policies. Environment Minister Martin Bursik again:

Martin Bursik
"I think that what is more important than the seat in the U.N. Security Council is whether we will be taken seriously as the presiding country of the European Council. We will be presiding the European Council in the first half of 2009 and the topic of climate change will be one of the priorities. I think this will harm our influence because there will be a discord. The president will be saying something different. On Friday, he sent Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates a letter saying that he will speak for himself. That advertisement is also an expression of his personal opinion; it is not the government's position."

Ladislav Jakl, the director of the President's political department, says that there will be two different speeches given by Vaclav Klaus in the United Nations. While the one addressed to the General Assembly of the U.N. has been consulted with the Czech Foreign Ministry and does therefore represent the official standpoint of the country, the other will be based on Mr Klaus' expertise in the issues of global climate change.

"The Secretary General of the U.N. is holding a conference, a debate. He invited significant figures who have something to say about the measures that are to be taken due to the alleged global warming. Vaclav Klaus has written a book about this topic, he delivered several speeches and has been thoroughly studying this theme; he is known for that abroad. That's why he has been invited to the conference - as a personality."

While Vaclav Klaus will speak as an expert at the conference on global warming on September 24th, his address to the 62nd General Assembly has not been scheduled yet. Whether or not either of the appearances in New York will affect Czech chances of securing the non-permanent seat in the Security Council will be revealed after the vote takes place in October.