Analyst: Czech president is under Russian influence

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Many people in the Czech Republic consider their Eurosceptic president Václav Klaus to be influenced by Moscow, Lukas Pachta, a political analyst at Europeum, an EU policy think-tank in Prague, told EURACTIV in an interview.

Lukas Pachta is a political analyst at Europeum, a Prague-based think-tank. His main areas of research include current political developments in Europe, EU institutional reform and EU foreign policy.

To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here.

What is the situation following the fall of the government of Mirek Topolánek? What do you expect to happen? Is a new government going to be formed, or will Topolánek stay on as a caretaker prime minister?

Nobody really knows. It depends on the president, Václav Klaus. He is now the most important player. 

Have his powers now increased? 

Exactly. He is the one who appoints the new or incumbent prime minister. The question everybody is now asking is whether he will appoint Mirek Topolánek or not. And nobody knows, because Klaus is very unpredictable. 

Mirek Topolánek himself used to reassure Brussels journalists, when we asked him about the risk of having a leading Eurosceptic as president of the country that holds the EU presidency, that Klaus’ powers are in fact limited. But this is not the case any more. Klaus might like to keep these powers as long as possible…

That’s true. He will try to do that. He will, perhaps, appoint Topolánek again. But the question is whether Topolánek will be able to secure the support of the MPs who were against him yesterday. The truth is that the Lisbon Treaty is absolutely on ice. As the Lisbon Treaty has passed the Chamber of deputies and is now stuck in the Senate, the Senate holds the key, and also the president. The Senate is full of older MPs who are reluctant about the Lisbon Treaty. As for the influence of Klaus, it lies in the Senate, and the topic is the Lisbon Treaty. 

What about US President Obama’s visit to Prague on 5 April? Will Klaus be his main host? 

No, it will still be Topolánek. Because he will still be in office, as prime minister in resignation. But the question is how comfortable Obama will be with this situation. It’s excluded that Obama would cancel the visit. There will be an [Obama] speech in Prague for the people. As for the meetings with Topolánek and Klaus, they will only be handshakes, not real meetings. 

Maybe if Václav Havel comes round, Obama would be more comfortable? 

Yes, Havel will meet Obama briefly. But it’ll be considered a private call. 

What do you expect from Obama? Will he say at last what his plans are for the missile shield, as the radar on Czech soil seems to be a stumbling block for the Lisbon Treaty’s ratification? 

I think Obama will announce in Prague that the radar base is no longer a priority. He will not say it with the same words, but implicitly he will say something like that. But this will not help Topolánek. Maybe the White House will neglect to mention the project altogether. 

You represent a pro-European Czech think-tank. How do you feel about your country’s EU presidency? 

I have been feeling rather positive about the presidency. They have achieved something already. I didn’t even expect the last European Council to be such a success. Not compared to France, but to Slovenia, I think they are doing quite well. 

You may call it a conspiracy theory, but are the Russians behind the vote which toppled Topolánek? 

Some people say there is Russian influence behind Klaus and his new party, or the party he supports [SSO]. Of course, Russia’s interest is exactly that – to destabilise the Czech government, to destabilise the EU and to undermine the Lisbon Treaty. 

But can you give concrete examples that Klaus is close to the Russians? 

There are so many examples! His book was partly financed by Lukoil, he was one of the few European leaders who did not criticise Russia over the Georgia campaign, he recently met the Lukoil CEO, so many suspicious facts… And SSO chairman Peter Mach has recently been appointed chairman of the board of a Czech company which will be bought by Gazprom. 

Yourself and your think-tank: Do you think that Moscow is making an effort to weaken the EU? 

Absolutely, yes. But they do it very intelligently, very secretly [and] very professionally. 

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