Czech president's meeting with MEPs ends in rift

5. 12. 2008 14:30
EP Green Daniel Cohn-Bendit, famous provocateur, angers Václav Klaus
Czech President Václav Klaus
Czech President Václav Klaus | Foto: Attila Racek

Praha - Friday's meeting between Czech president Václav Klaus and the European Parliament delegation (MEPs) ended in a sharp diplomatic dispute.

As Aktuálně.cz learned, Václav Klaus wanted to end the meeting prematurely. It was up to President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering to pacify him.

Euroskeptic Klaus was angered by questions posed by EP Greens Daniel Cohn-Bendit, famous for being a left-leaning "nonconformist" and an active student leader in the 1968 riots in France.

Bendit the provocateur

The EP Greens delegation brought an EU small flag as a gift to president Klaus. Cohn-Bendit spoke to Aktuálně.cz about what happened and this is what he said.

"He was very friendly at first when he came to the meeting and said he is a very open person. Then we asked him questions about EU and the Lisbon Treaty," said Cohn-Bendit.

What infuriated Klaus, though, was not a question about the Treaty that has been recently approved by the Czech Constitutional Court despite his objections but rather a question about his planned new party

Provocateur meets provocateur. Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit
Provocateur meets provocateur. Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit | Foto: Aktuálně.cz, Stránky politika

Cohn-Bendit asked Klaus if there are any ties between him and Declan Ganley, the head of Libertas, famous for being a great opponent of the Treaty. Klaus met Ganley upon his state visit to Ireland in November this year. 

"I asked him what kind of ties they have," said Cohn-Bendit. Allegedly, Klaus then raised a complaint to Pöttering who said they have the full right to ask such questions and there is "plenty of time." He then added: "My colleague will continue because anyone of us...can ask what they want." 

"The atmosphere was cool. The only thing that he [Klaus] then said was that regulations are non-sense and that things like European constitution and Lisbon Treaty and anything EU are mad," Cohn-Bendit said for Aktuálně.cz, adding that the whole meeting was just "crazy".

Prague Castle's view

A few hours after the meeting, the Prague Castle summoned an extraordinary press briefing. President's chancellor Jiří Weigl presented Václav Klaus's statement, in which he [Klaus] declined wanting to end the meeting MEPs prematurely.

"Mr. President considers Mr. Cohn-Bendit's behavior as provocative," said Weigl. Weigl also said that "Mr.Cohn-Bendit devised the meeting as a big provocation".

The Prague Castle also quoted Václav Klaus as saying the following at the meeting: "I have to say that nobody has talked to me in such a manner and such a tone in six years in [office]." He added: "You are not on the Paris barricades here. I thought these manners ended 19 years ago," was Klaus's response to Bendit's provocative questions. 

Deputy PM Alexandr Vondra said for news online daily České noviny that Cohn-Bendit is famous for being a provocateur and revolutionary.

Cohn-Bendit confirmed to Czech broadsheet daily Mladá Fronta DNES that his provocation was deliberate and that the president should be ready to answer certain questions.

Lisbon Treaty and insulting the Irish

The Prague Castle also published a transcript of the whole meeting, in which Cohn-Bendit is saying about the Lisbon Treaty: "I am not interested in your opinions. I want to know what you will do once it is approved by the lower house and the Senate. Will you respect the will of the representatives of the people? You will have to sign it."

Klaus commented the Treaty this way: "As for the Lisbon Treaty, I would like to mention that it is not ratified in Germany either. The Constitutional Treaty, which was basically the same as the Lisbon Treaty, was refused in referendums in other two countries."

President's chancellor Jiří Weigl is explaining the Prague Castle's view of the meeting to journalists
President's chancellor Jiří Weigl is explaining the Prague Castle's view of the meeting to journalists | Foto: Ondřej Besperát

Upon the question about meeting Declan Ganley, the transcript quotes Cohn-Bendit: "I want you to explain to me what is the level of your friendship with Mr Ganley from Ireland. How can you meet a person whose funding is unclear? You are not supposed to meet him in your position. It is a man whose finances come from problematic sources and he wants to use them to be funding his election campaign into the EP."

According to the transcript, there was a dispute between president Klaus and Irish MEP Brian Crowley, too. "By meeting Mr. Ganley upon your state visit of Ireland, you offended the Irish people," said Crowley to president Klaus. "He [Ganley] did not prove where his finances behind the campaign came from. It is an utmost insult for the Irish to meet someone who has not been elected. I just want to inform you how the Irish feel about this," he added.

Klaus responded: "If Mr. Crowley speaks of an insult to the Irish people, then I must say that the biggest insult to the Irish people is not to accept the result of the Irish referendum. In Ireland I met somebody who represents a majority in his country. You, Mr. Crowley, represent a view which is in minority in Ireland. That is a tangible result of the referendum.."

To that Crowley replied: "With all respect, Mr. President, you will not tell me what the Irish think. As an Irishman, I know it best."


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