Prague - What is the single gravest issue in the relations between Germany's largest federal state and the Czech Republic? Illegal migration, or fears of what happens after the border controls get abolished with the enlargement of the Schengen Agreement Zone at the end of this year?
Neither. Apparently, it is still the contentious issue of the post-war expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia. It transpired yesterday at the press conference after the talks between Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek and visiting Bavaria´s interior minister and its future prime minister Guenther Beckstein.
An open wound
"I still consider the Beneš decrees and the expulsion itself to be an open wound and an aberration of international and European law," said the seasoned Bavarian politician.
The series of laws known popularly by the name of the second president of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš were enacted by his exiled government during the World War II and formed basis for stripping the Czech Germans of their property and citizenship after the defeat of Hitler's Germany.
He believes the issue which was thought to be dealt with once and forever by signing The Czech German Declaration on Mutual Relations and Their Future Development in 1997 needs to be further debated.
Mutual trade exchange is going well and current issues pose no difficulties to either side, said he while stressing it is necessary to start talking about the issues of the past as well. Step by step.
Coming to terms with the past
Talking to reporters afterwards minister Beckstein stressed that Czechs have to realize the war time presidential decrees gave rise to evil and injustice. The Czech nation has not come to terms with its own past yet, he says.
Mr Beckstein is the first high level Bavarian politician to lobby on Czech soil in such an open manner for the Sudeten German issue. Munich has played a role of the champion of the expelled Germans since 1950s.
Prime Minister Topolánek however made it clear he is not ready to take up the issue. "There is no such political power which could endanger the development of property rights in the Czech lands by declaring the decrees void."
I shall return
Moving on to the issues of today, minister Beckstein confirmed Bavaria is worried by the possible rise in crime once the Schengen zone absorbs the new EU member countries.
"It does not concern Czechs so much, rather Poland and Baltic states," he explained. It will be up to the police force to make sure the border regions remain safe.
And there are experts for that in Bavaria, he said. "If it was that easy, I could give the task to any moron," he said jokingly.
Guenther Beckstein is to succeed outgoing Prime Minister of Bavaria Edmund Stoiber next month. As he said, he hopes to return to Prague in his new capacity to debate a wide spectrum of issues.
So far no head of Bavarian government has been able to do so as there has been no official invitation coming from Prague, precisely because of the thorny Sudeten German issue.