Rock musician Michael Kocáb on President Zeman: he scored a goal into our own net

Michael Kocáb

Thirty years ago rock musician Michael Kocáb organized the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czech territory. Today he’s authored a petition to the Senate, asking senators to file a constitutional complaint against the Czech president for defending Russian interests rather than those of his own country.

Although Michael Kocáb, a close friend of the late Czech president Václav Havel, a former MP and minister for human rights, retired from active politics in 2010, he keeps a close eye on current affairs and often makes himself heard on matters of national and public interest. In 1992 he petitioned for Czechs and Slovaks to be able to decide about their common future in a national referendum, at the height of the migration crisis he raised his voice in defence of migrants.

Today he is once again putting pen to paper to protest against the president’s attitude in the diplomatic row between Prague and Moscow, which has shaken bilateral ties in their foundations and emptied out the countries’ embassies in an unprecedented expulsion of diplomats/agents.

Michael Kocáb says that the very fact that Moscow accepted Prague’s demand for a parity representation, which will see 63 Russian diplomats sent home by the end of May, shows that for once Prague was in a position of strength and its government and intelligence services had powerful arguments. Had that not been the case, Russia would have responded in a whole different way, Kocáb argues. But then the president made his address, he says.

Miloš Zeman | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“We’re a hockey nation, so let me put it this way. We are playing against Russia –we are in the final minute of the third period and we are leading 1:0. And then our forward, our top player, intentionally scores into our own goal. That is exactly what President Zeman did. We were winning, thanks to the way the prime minister, the interior minister and others handled the situation. Frankly, we did not expect it, but they did a great job and then the president steps in and makes us look like complete fools. When our own president casts doubt on the words of our government and intelligence service how can ask our allies to show solidarity?”

Michael Kocáb is now collecting signatures on a petition for the Senate to file a constitutional complaint against the head of state. Although like the vast majority of Czechs, he does not have access to the confidential reports on the case, his argument is -who else would he trust than his government and secret services? He says the president’s behaviour in undermining their efforts is shameful.

“The president’s behaviour can no longer be tolerated. He should not be our president anymore. Whose interests is he defending here? I am sure that you have heard that following his address they heaped praise on him in Russia, suggesting he be given an award and what not. One Russian paper recently wrote “We have our man in Prague“.

Michael Kocáb concludes that paradoxically this serious confrontation with Moscow and the parity representation at embassies agreed on could significantly improve relations between the two countries, just as the withdrawal of Soviet troops did 30 years ago.

“Russia will no longer be tempted to make this country a base for its agents in Europe and we can focus on fostering cultural and business ties. We just have to be careful in making strategic investments – in anything that would make us dependent on Russia.”