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Czech report Czech report
by Euro Reporter
2012-03-13 07:42:00
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Czech politicians offer different interpretations of left-wing landslide in Slovakia

Voters in neighbouring Slovakia made a powerful statement at the weekend when they handed an overwhelming victory to the centre-left party SMER, which now has a strong enough mandate to form a single-party government. What that statement means though has been interpreted variously in the Czech Republic, where the current centre-right government has reached record lows in popularity. In the view of Foreign Minister and chairman of the TOP 09 Party Karel Schwarzenberg, the poll should be a lesson for the Czech government that corruption doesn’t pay, even amid positive right-wing policies. The Czech Social Democratic Party on the other hand was quick to interpret the election result as an indictment of failed policies that have often mirrored the reform measures passed and proposed in the Czech Republic. For an expert’s view on both those statements we turned to political scientist Jiří Pehe: “I think the results of the Slovak elections reflected both of the trends we have heard about, that is, concerns over corruption in Slovakia that were so prominent in the so-called “Gorila” affair. And then of course there is also the politics of the right-of-centre government. I think many Slovaks didn’t actually vote only on the basis of their corruption fears, because that would not explain why they vote for SMER, which was also implicated in parts of the Gorila the affair.”

The outgoing government was a right-wing coalition as in the Czech Republic; were there policies being implemented in Slovakia that were similar to unpopular reforms being pushed here? “Absolutely, I think the right-of-centre government in Slovakia pursued pretty much the same or very similar policies as the Czech government is pursuing right now – though I would argue that the Slovak government was much more diplomatic in communicating with the public and more skilful in introducing its reforms. Nevertheless it was basically entirely swept away in the elections, which shows that people do not think that cuts and austerity measures are the only way to solve the problems that we see in the current economic crisis.”

Bohuslav Sobotka, the chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party, suggested that Prime Minister Nečas make thorough study of the situation in Slovakia, do you think he will? Or rather, do you think the government finds the election result in Slovakia at all frightening?  “Well I think the Czech government should find the results of the election in Slovakia frightening, simply because there are lessons for Czech politics, in my opinion. It seems to me that if a right-of-centre government wants to introduce reforms that put emphasis on cuts and austerity measures, it also needs to develop at least some sense of social coherence or some social policies that give people hope that they will not be left behind, and that these – sometimes perceived as mindless – cuts will not plunge too many people into poverty. And I think this is what the Czech government has not been capable of doing, and the Slovak government had similar problems. And in that respect I think that the Czech government should learn a lesson from Slovakia.

“Another problem that faces the Czech government is corruption, and in that sense it is also similar to Slovakia, because the main argument of opponents of cuts and austerity measures in both countries has been that people would accept government reforms more openly and with more enthusiasm if they knew that hundreds of millions of crowns were not being lost in various corruption schemes at the same time. And neither government has had much success fighting corruption and I think what we’ve seen in Slovakia is the result. And the Czech Republic may expect something very similar.”


Czech Theatre Company won’t make it to Synetic

The Czech Republic’s Tantehorse Company was scheduled to open a three-week stand Thursday at Synetic Theatre in Crystal City, but on Wednesday the engagement was scratched because of visa delays. The reasons for the last-minute cancellation of “Light in the Darkness,” a mimed piece by Tantehorse hosted by Washington’s premiere physical theatre, seem to boil down to two troupes getting singed walking through the unfamiliar process of bringing guest companies to the United States. A case of naïveté? “That’s good word,” says Palma Yanni, the Dickstein Shapiro lawyer who handled the process.

Chris Bentley, press secretary for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, explains that the two-step process of bringing in guest artists begins with the U.S. sponsor. Synetic’s contract called for Tantehorse to manage the visa issues, and Tantehorse had a U.S. outfit set to deal with the matter. But Tantehorse didn’t initiate its end of the process until December and balked at the steep fees involved in late January. At that point the Czech troupe contacted Synetic for help, which is when Yanni got involved. CIS received the petitions Feb. 17, with Yanni’s law firm paying the $1,225 fee to expedite the filing. On March 5, the two Tantehorse performers were approved, including Mirenka Cechova (currently Helen Hayes nominated for her work with Synetic’s “King Lear” last year, when she was here as a Fulbright doctoral student in residence with American University). The four technicians were delayed.

Synetic offered Tantehorse its technical crew, but the visiting troupe declined. Aneta Kafkova, speaking from the Czech Republic, said: “This performance is quite specific. The lighting and sound design is kind of improvising on the stage, and they cannot be replaced by anybody else.” “Light in the Darkness” was announced last May as part of Synetic’s current season. The visa process for guest artists typically takes from 90 days to six months, with the petitioning process followed by face-to-face interviews.


Czech Republic very interested in deepening partnership relations with Kazakhstan in all spheres

Kazakh Ambassador to the Czech Republic Anarbek Karashev met with Deputy Chairman of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart to discuss prospects of interparliamentary cooperation, strengthening of contacts in various spheres. Petr Pithart praised the progress of cooperation between the legislative branches of the two countries and productivity of interparliamentary contacts. According to him, Kazakhstan is one of the most important trade and economic partners of the Czech Republic. Kazakhstan has been included in the 12 most priority economic partners of the Czech Republic. "Our country is interested in deepening partnership relations with Kazakhstan in all spheres of cooperation," Pithart said.

The Kazakh diplomat awarded the jubilee medal "20 Years of Kazakhstan's Independence" to the Czech parliamentarian having noted his contribution to the development of bilateral interparliamentary cooperation. According to him, 'Kazakhstan bears great responsibility as a leader in the Central Asian region, so the Czechs sincerely wish Kazakhstan prosperity."

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