President Zeman travels less. provokes, stirs power clashes-press

Prezident republiky Miloš Zeman (vpravo) navštívil 21. května Brno. Na Nové radnici se setkal s primátorem Romanem Onderkou (vlevo).

published: 25.05.2013, 15:34 | updated: 25.05.2013 15:37:41

Prague - Milos Zeman has made fewer domestic and foreign trips than his predecessors in the first four months following his election, and, compared with them, he tended to provoke and dispute for powers on the Czech scene, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today.

Some fans of Zeman, 68, say he has been working too intensively and he should slacken off for his health´s sake, the paper writes.

However, the work pace of his predecessor Vaclav Klaus (in office 2003-March 2013) shortly after his election was even higher. He made seven foreign trips and visited five of the Czech Republic´s 13 self-governing regions, spending a few days in each, MfD writes.

Zeman lags behind Klaus in this respect. He has not visited all neighbouring states as yet, but only Slovakia, Austria and most recently also Poland, the daily continues.

Nor has he paid visits to regions, except for Moravian capital Brno, but he has pledged to put the things right by starting to tour all regions one after another as from July, the paper says.

Vaclav Havel, the first post-1989 Czechoslovak president, was also an agile traveller in his first months in office. In fourth months he made as many as 21 trips in the Czech Republic and visited 12 foreign countries, MfD continues.

Among others, Havel then went to Austria, visiting the country shortly after his election as president, as his successors did. He pleased Austrian politicians and citizens by voicing regret at the post-war transfer of Sudeten Austrians from Czechoslovakia, the paper writes.

Twenty-three years later, Czech President Zeman, too, came to Austria to greet its top politicians. However, his speech in Vienna annoyed most Austrians. Zeman´s words such as that the [post-war] expulsion was a punishment softer than the capital one will affect Czech-Austrian relations for a long time, the daily says.

Compared with Zeman, Klaus was also quicker in choosing his aides as president. In a mere three days after his inauguration he appointed his team of collaborators. After 11 days, Klaus set off on an official trip to Slovakia, MfD writes.

It took Zeman longer to appoint his aides and his first foreign visit was planned for several weeks. However, quite a prosaic reason may be behind his slower pace.

"I´m getting more and more lazy," Zeman told MfD before winning the direct presidential election on January 26.

Zeman, nevertheless, beat his predecessors in other areas. He decided to focus more on domestic politics in accordance with his vow to be an "active president." Politicians, union leaders and Zeman´s old friends pay frequent visits to him at Prague Castle, the daily writes.

Each of the hitherto presidents chose a main issue to focus on, which later became a symbol of their eras as heads of state.

Vaclav Havel´s main issue were human rights, while Klaus became a symbol of Euroscepticism. Zeman seems to be most connected with the word "investment," which he pronounces in every speech and public appearance, the paper says.

It cites Zeman´s words that the Czech Republic needs investments as a way out of the deep economic crisis.

Businessmen are glad to hear to such words and they clearly support Zeman views, it adds.

Unlike his predecessors, Zeman has from the beginning resolutely challenged the limits of presidential powers, MfD continues.

Klaus, too, disputed with the then foreign minister Cyril Svoboda over the extent of president´s powers in foreign policy. However, Klaus never found himself balancing on the verge of presidential powers. In terms of diplomacy he made an impression of a constructive president. He even signed the Czech accession to the EU, the daily writes.

Disputes over foreign policy also took place between Havel and then foreign minister Josef Zieleniec. Nevertheless, the two managed to meet and discuss solutions to problems, MfD writes.

Zeman, in less than three months since his March 8 inauguration, stirred up debates on his powers three times.

First, a debate flared up on whether the president can dismiss the prime minister on his own. A dispute with Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg over naming Czech ambassadors followed and it has not been settled yet, MfD writes.

Last time, uproar burst out over Zeman´s attempt to extend his powers by refusing to grant professorship to an academic proposed for promotion by Charles University, the paper says.

Zeman can be expected to be the most activist of all Czech presidents and to create the third power centre, the Presidential Office, in addition to the government and parliament. The weakness of Petr Necas´s right-wing government makes it easier for him, MfD concludes.


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