ROAR: “Czech president has no phobia about Russia”
It is easier for Moscow to negotiate with the eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus than with the EU establishment, observers think.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has visited Moscow to confirm that his country is interested in pragmatic cooperation with Russia. “Against the background of traditionally strained relations between Russia and ‘new Europeans’ from Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, Klaus seems to be an appropriate figure for dialogue,” RBC daily wrote.
Timofey Bordachev, head of the Center for European Studies at the Higher School of Economics, believes that the Czech president, “unlike leaders of most new EU and NATO member states has no phobia.” Klaus is not one of those “who constantly mention old offences,” the analyst told RBC daily.
“A European dissident, opponent of the Lisbon treaty and pragmatic to the marrow of his bones,” Klaus is considered one of the most pro-Russian politicians in Europe, Nevskoe Vremya daily wrote.
It is not surprising that the two countries’ leaders quickly found a common language and “discussed, in good Russian, issues of trade and economic cooperation, missile defense, the system of European security, energy and different conspiracies,” the paper added.
Answering a journalist’s question after the meeting with Klaus about “increasing activity of Russian secret services in the Czech Republic,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described this allegation as “a fruit of conspiracy thinking.”
Nevskoe Vremya noted in this regard that the Czech president, who is normalizing ties with Russia, “thinks that instead of fighting virtual threats it is better to be friends and have good trade relations.” This approach seems to be fruitful, the paper wrote, quoting Medvedev as saying that “Russia and the Czech Republic will sign contracts for millions of euro in the near future.”
Klaus, more than other politicians, pays heed to Moscow’s initiatives, including one about the new architecture of European security, RBC daily noted. However, Klaus in Moscow seemed rather skeptical about this particular idea. “I do not think that one should believe in big projects of European security, I do not see a big future for them,” he was quoted by Kommersant daily as saying.
At the same time, the Russian president said after the talks with his Czech counterpart that Moscow would continue to promote the idea of a new system of security in Europe even “despite the easing of tensions.”
One of the main causes of recent tensions was Washington’s plans to deploy elements of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. However, the plans were dropped in September.
Relations between Russia and the Czech Republic had also been strained by the decision of the Czech government to host the radar. Now the tensions “are subsiding,” Klaus said in the Russian capital.
“Moscow and Prague no longer face each other across radar,” Kommersant daily wrote. “The talks between the Russian and Czech presidents were held in a warm business atmosphere,” the paper said. Medvedev and Klaus conversed “as if there have never been two years of disagreement over the missile defense,” the daily added.
In the situation when the problem of deploying radar near Prague no longer clouds relations between the two countries, the talks in Moscow focused on economic issues. A diplomatic source told Kommersant that Medvedev tried to persuade Klaus to support Russia’s Atomstroyexport in a bid for building two power-generating units at the Temelín nuclear power plant, or ensure equal conditions for all participants of a tender.
Russia is also interested in the Czech Republic buying the whole volume of contracted gas from the Russian energy giant Gazprom. If Prague does not implement its commitments in this sphere, Gazprom may drop its plans to build an underground gas storage facility on Czech territory, Kommersant said. However, a source in the Russian company told the paper it was unlikely to happen.
RBC daily, in its turn, said that the present economic relations between the two countries could not be described as “ideal.” The paper mentioned the decision of the Czech government made in April to exclude Aeroflot Russian airlines from the competition for Czech Airlines, citing “interests of national security.”
Moscow and Prague also need to increase turnover “which reduced in the first half of the year by 50% because of the economic crisis,” the paper added.
However, if economic problems are to be solved mostly by the Czech government, Klaus is now more focused on challenges of pan-European scale. He is considered by many as the “last obstacle” for the European Union’s reform treaty. Visiting Moscow, the Czech president reiterated that he would not lift his objections until his conditions are met.
The conditions are serious, Klaus said after the meeting with the Russian president. He told Dmitry Medvedev that he “fears a deepening integration within the European Union.”
Klaus considers the Lisbon treaty to be a threat to national sovereignty. He also wants to add a clause to the treaty guaranteeing that the post-war decrees to expel the Sudeten Germans are not invalidated. Czechs fear that descendants of the expelled ethnic Germans will try to reclaim property.
The Czech president is continuing the course to limit processes of European integration, Maksim Minaev of the Center for Political Conjuncture said. He believes that Klaus’s stance may be advantageous to Moscow.
This situation gives Moscow the opportunity to diversify the dialogue with the EU, the analyst said. The Russian leadership will be able to maneuver “if the process of strengthening the institutional structure of the European Union is stumbled,” he added.
Analysts believe that the main reasons behind Klaus’s “pro-Russian position” lie in his political views, not in “a conspiracy theory,” Nevskoe Vremya wrote. He considers Europe less a Christian civilization with Russia being part of it, but more as a “united state that dictates its will to peoples and governments,” the paper stressed.
“That is why his opinion often goes against that of Western political establishment,” the daily noted. “In particular, he criticized the bombing of Yugoslavia and the US invasion of Iraq and stood against the recognition of Kosovo’s independence.”
Klaus looks like “a typical European dissident,” and Moscow has better relations with him than with the official EU establishment, the paper added.
Sergey Borisov, RT