Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Czech president attacks EU regulation

A way to summarize why I have been decided for quite some time to vote for Miloš Zeman as Václav Klaus' successor is to say that among the candidates who had a significant chance, he was the most right-wing one. He was the clearest for of the green politicians and NGOs; he was the most candid one when it came to jokes vs political correctness; he is a much stronger hawk when it comes to foreign policy (especially the threats posed by the Muslim world) than Václav Klaus (he talks about the Anticivilization spreading from Northern Africa through Indonesia that makes living partly by drugs and partly by oil; he wants to invite Israel to NATO to help us fight against this major threat); regardless of his talk, he has done a lot for capitalism in Czechia, e.g. by his having privatized the banks 15 years ago.

Zeman is a self-described leftist. Still, those of us who remember all the developments right before, during, and after the Velvet Revolution must know that this "leftism" is a part of the image that Zeman has to preserve not to negate his life but there's no genuine "leftism" of the kind that irritates me so much. In some sense, he is a conservative fifth column within the Left which is a good thing.

I remember his analyses he wrote shortly before the fall of communism. They were rather brave and I never thought that they would be too much on the left from the opinions of Václav Klaus; well, they were somewhat on the left. When Klaus managed to establish the standard, strong, right-wing political party in Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s, Zeman wanted to remain competitive so he gradually redefined himself as the leader of the modern left – successfully so. He had to because the other side was already taken. ;-)

Last time he made me upset about some left-wing comments on the economy was probably in 1992. My perception of Zeman after 1992 is completely different and everything I know about his later conflicts with the rest of the social democratic party's establishment is compatible with the idea that he wasn't left-wing enough for those bastards.

Zeman also calls himself a eurofederalist but those folks who are satisfied with this naive, superficial label had to become disappointed once they learn some "details". ;-)

Just to be sure, he can imagine a European federation – so can I but I just don't want any such thing – and he wants Czechia to join the eurozone within 5 years – which is irrelevant because all the other major politicians and economists are against.

However, that's been pretty much the complete list of the attitudes in which Zeman is pro-EU. The rest of the EU attitudes hiding in the head of this politician is a chain of anti-EU nuclear timebombs which is a major reason why I preferred him. ;-)

Zeman is just visiting Austria. He didn't cause any real scandal worth the name but he made it clear that his opinion about the expulsion of ethnic Germans in 1945 wasn't just a cheap trick to get national votes in the presidential election. It's an important part of his seeing of the world. So he insisted on judging the expulsion in the historical context. He said something tough that I totally agree with – after all, I've said it many times years before Zeman.

He said that the expelled Germans should have felt lucky because the alternatives were tougher. A highly conceivable alternative was a death penalty for these – hundreds of thousands or millions of – [so far] Czechoslovak citizens who had arguably committed high treason by happily becoming citizens of the Third Reich and allowing this monstrous regime to overtake their homeland. Various things could have taken place in 1945; all the people who were actually expelled could have been executed. Perhaps 1/2 of them or 1/3 of them. It would still bring almost every German family a huge sorrow. In this sense, the Czechoslovak government was extremely generous; we may even say it was protecting the ethnic German from a potentially uncontrollable revenge by the ethnic Czechs. Moreover, the expelled people were allowed to escape the looming communism which was really great for their freedom and which was great for them economically, too.

Zeman despises the murders etc. during the "wild expulsion" phase just like I do but these trees shouldn't prevent us from seeing the forest – the question what should have been done with the millions of Czechoslovak citizens of German ethnicity after it was clear once again that they did a seriously wrong thing – high treason and related acts (which helped to cripple the life of many other Czechoslovaks: 300,000 Czechoslovak citizens were killed during the war, for example).

These are not just some irrelevant ghosts from the history. We must reach sufficiently compatible opinions about these matters if we want to preserve the "thick line" after the history. The historical bills must remain paid and people have to agree with the outcome. Also, we must know whether the context should influence the current policies and decisions. It should. People who don't learn the history are bound to repeat its mistakes.

But let me return to the EU.

Zeman has signed the European Stability Mechanism but he actually opposes all the ideology and planned action behind this project. He thinks it is crazy for the EU to help countries like Greece and Cyprus; he "cannot imagine" that a Czech finance minister would approve such things. You could suggest that his opinions are inconsistent but they aren't. The purpose of ESM – officially – isn't to pour money to undisciplined, screwed countries. It's supposed to be an arrangement encouraging countries to act responsibly and helping them with loans if they're in trouble that occurred despite their disciplined behavior. I can imagine that such a mechanism could be morally justifiable in my eyes. It just differs from the "real-world ESM" which is a gadget for large-scale redistribution of money within the EU.

You could also say that his desire to join the eurozone is incompatible with his negative opinion about bailout for troubled EU countries. But I don't see any incompatibility here, either. A single currency just doesn't imply a single wallet! Many people or nations may use the same currency even though they hate each other; they would never pay a penny to the others. It's just a damn unit of wealth! Paying with the same banknotes or coins as someone else doesn't transform you into her sister.

Of course that I may also imagine that within 5 or 10 years, Czechia will be in the eurozone. We may pay with the same unit. I think that the crown should strengthen before the merger – well below CZK 20 per euro while the current exchange rate is CZK 26 per euro – but at the moment when I don't have any clear remaining expectations about a future trend of the exchange rate, switching to the euros is just about dividing some numbers by a fixed, particular, well-known conversion factor. There's nothing wrong about it. If the inflation targeting by the ECB is similar to the inflation targeting by the Czech National Bank, nothing really changes. We must be sure that we're approximately in the same optimum currency area as the true core of the eurozone – which I still assume to be Germany – and I think we clearly are. Otherwise there's no problem about the transition.

The only problems are the fiscal and redistribution policies that some people are trying to add on top of the innocent fact that some people use the same unit of money. These are the real problems. If we join a currency that is doing these insane things, it's very bad. If we remain in a system that doesn't expect this unlimited redistribution, things are just OK.

But the main topic I wanted to mention was Zeman's attack – in an interview for Profil, an Austrian journal that will be published on Monday – on the EU regulation. It was far from the first time when he criticized such things. In the past, he has repeatedly complained about the fluorescent light bulbs whose ugly light was forced on his room by the crazy EU regulation of light bulbs.

Today, we learn something else.

Can you imagine that the European Union would prevent Shakespeare from writing Hamlet? Pretty much the same – equivalent – thing happened to Zeman. If Hamlet is one of the main characters that define Shakespeare – so Hamlet's ban is a serious attack on the very identity of William Shakespeare – we should ask what is the main thing that has defined the identity of Miloš Zeman for decades.

Yes, it's Becherovka, a herbal liquor from Carlsbad, Western Bohemia, with 38 percent of alcohol (only 2 people have access to the full recipe today). Zeman would always drink a lot of it. But for nearly a decade, we were told, Zeman would be drinking Slivovice instead (40-55 percent of alcohol). Why did he switch? Why did our Shakespeare has abandoned his Hamlet?

Some people who followed it knew that Zeman probably didn't like the amount of sugar in Becherovka anymore. But only now, we may learn the actual reasons: a decade ago, the European Union would actually rule that liquors have to contain at least XY percent of sugar. Becherovka was forced to transform itself into a sweet lemonade of a sort and it just wasn't good for Zeman anymore!

So he switched to Slivovice. You may see that the European Union is seriously crippling people's lives, even the life of the most important Czech politician at this point. ;-)

Zeman is probably even more shocked by the EU's attempts to regulate smoking. As a passionate smoker, he was once able to convince his "fellow Texan", staunch non-smoker George W. Bush, to be allowed a cigarette somewhere in the White House. Zeman jokingly counts it as some of his most important achievements in the foreign policy. ;-) Of course, unlike Klaus, he smokes at the Prague Castle all the time, too. He must really be scared by the ongoing plans to ban smoking at an increasing fraction of places. During his visit to Slovakia, they kindly allowed him to smoke in the presidential palace and surrounded him with ashtrays but he was later told that his smoking was illegal, anyway. ;-)

As you can imagine, I don't really care about the right of smokers to smoke anywhere – an isolated would-be right of a group I don't love in any elevated way – but whether you want it or not, the smoking bans are just another step to restrict the human freedom, to take their sometimes elementary life decisions from them. And in this more general form, it's just extremely dangerous.

The European Union shouldn't try to intervene into smoking, liquors, and light bulbs, Zeman importantly says. In some sense, he is protecting his own rights and hobbies which makes his defense less morally clear but on the other hand, it makes the negative impact of the EU decisions on actual people more visible and tangible.


  1. I am not very happy about Zeman. He is 500% better than Klaus, that is for sure, but he is still not good. He tries to build the Winston Churchill image about himself - the same attitude to smoking, islam, little respect for political correctness, his wanna be funny speeches and his haughitness (bohorovnost) etc. From my point of view, he has a narcissist personality - seeking attention, admiration, power etc. He is also very undiplomatic. Do you remember the Muhammad Atta affair? Narcissist personalities are not mature personalities, their personality development halted at some point and they are not really moral. The problem is that narcissist personalities and other kinds of psychopaths are attracted to power just as flies to honey. That is why there are so many psychopaths in politics, higher managements, universities and other institutions where power can be found

  2. Becherovka is not liquor, it's a crime. It's even worse than that Dutch phlegm, Verpoorten (egg liquor) and that's very very bad already. Dear Czechs, stick to what you do best: brewing beer. For slivovice, ask your Serb or Croat friends to bring you some homemade in a clear bottle with no label, it's divine. Vodka comes from Russia or Poland, not anywhere else. Herbal spirits from Austria, Germany or Switzerland. And so on.

  3. Dear Eugene, I didn't understand what's wrong with Becherovka ;-) but I surely did understand that your belief about its origin is mistaken.

    Becherovka *is* of course a herbal spirit from Austria – I mean Austrian Empire – one invented by Josef Vitus Becher, an ethnic German pharmacist - so things are just like you demand - who was accompanied by the British doctor Frobrig when he constructed the miraculous recipe.

  4. Mephisto--"little respect for political correctness"---I think you are posting on the wrong blog...try Daily Kos or something. Political correctness is a blight, and yet another way meddling people butt into other peoples' lives.

  5. It depends of what you mean by political correctness. It is a pity you do not understand Czech and you cannot judge Zeman by yourself. The amount of vulgarisms he uses in he speeches is really unparalleled and in the West he would be eaten alive by the media. He openly calls other people idiots, imbeciles and uses similar strong language. An example of his lack of political correctness or diplomacy can be found here

    Austria is our neighbour state. We have some quarrels about nuclear power plants, the Czechs have them, the Austrians are against because of safety and they protest. zeman called them publicly idiots in an interview for an Austrian news paper and said that Austria was not a victim of Adolph Hitler but his ally. I mean he can think these things but is it really wise to say these things for foreign media.
    IMHO he is a stupid asshole. He certainly woulnd mind this kind of language

  6. Dear Mephisto, so far you have a perfect track record of being wrong about politics. So, I wonder if you bet on sports? It would be helpful to know so that I could bet on the exact opposite of what you're betting on.

  7. BTW: you are a Canadian, right? What would happen if your prime minister gave an interview for a US newspaper and called the Americans (US citizens) publicly idiots and nazis?

  8. Dear Lubos, thank you for the history lesson. It doesn't change the fact (or my personal opinion) that Becherovka was sickly sweet treacle when I tried it in 1994 before the EU intervened and I shudder to think what that change meant for its taste but fortunately I never had to find out. All sweet cordials worldwide should be outlawed and their producers sent to work in a salt mine.

    I will stick to my prejudices regarding national/regional/geographic origin of alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs in general. (Pizza, by the way, is Neapolitan, not Italian.) The reason why this is a good rule of thumb has to do with "networking effect" (not networking as in shmoozing and socializing, but the momentum accumulated by "clusters of excellence" formed of craftspeople, scientists, engineers, laborers, traders etc. that self-perpetuate) and more generally with fortuitous circumstances such as climate, botany, water and other resources.

    There are always exception to such rules and over long timespans a cluster of excellence may move elsewhere but I find it a useful heuristic most of the time.

  9. And how do you judge right from wrong? Right = your worldview, wrong = other worldviews? Politics is no physics, there are no experiments to let the Nature judge what is wrong and what is right. And besides, you dont really know much about my views in politics because I never really wrote them here, I only opposed some oppinions here and it was you who attributed me to the leftist side. I do not like the EU bereaucracy either. Am I neither a leftist nor rightist, I would call myself a humanist

  10. You're right Mephisto. I don't like either when politicians are insulting and rude. We have one of those boor in France called Mélenchon, a communist.Each time I see him on TV I flick to another channel... but he's like the Moon he is still there even when you don't watch :-D.

  11. Regarding the deportation of ethnic Germans:

    There's absolutely no way to know what each individual was up to, and assigning collective guild is just, well, sloppy collectivist thinking.

    In the end it was probably better for the Germans that they ended up in Germany, but for the Czech Republic it probably would have been even better if they still had a bunch of Germans around.

    The argument that they escaped revenge from the ethnic Czechs reflects bad on the Czechs. Mob anger is a bad idea, and "shoot first, act questions later" is considered barbaric.

  12. Dear ClassyGuido, the co-existence has worked sort of well for 700 years but the arrival of Hitler has destroyed the potential for such a co-existence irreversibly.

    There's absolutely no way to know what each individual was up to, and assigning collective guild is just, well, sloppy collectivist thinking.

    The laws allowed each German who could prove his anti-Nazi activity to stay.

    Even with all these arrangements, you could say that the evaluation was sloppy but the first part of your sentence also shows that it was the most accurate and just possible evaluation.

  13. Lubus,

    You let your emotions run away with you senses.
    There is not one statement above that indicates that ClassyGuido is a nazi or nazi apologist.

    After having recently moved to Prague, I have been able to visit e.g. Lidice and Terezin, and historical events really become alive in a different way when you see things with your own eyes.

    Post WW2 anger at the Germans, including ethnic German Czechs, is very easy to understand, as is the expulsion of the ethnic Germans. Perhaps it was the only practical path forward at the time.

    Nevertheless, collective punishment is in principle unacceptable, and I think this was ClassyGuido's point. (I would assume you agree with that position.)

    About 3 million ethnic Germans were deported from Czechoslovakia after the end of WW2, and somewhere between around 20k or 30k died (through execution, starvation, cold, concentration camp illnesses, suicide, etc). Surely, this tragedy should not be taken lightly, even considering the "an eye for an eye" mentality that was prevalent at the time (and understandably so).

  14. i think you should just stick to science, you are too pietist/asperger for politics.

  15. The by far best vodka comes form Sweden, both "pure" vodka such as Absolut, and spiced vodka, such as Bäska Droppar.

  16. Luboš,

    you write "Anticivilization spreading from Northern Africa through Indonesia" - I just wonder, why Egypt (Libya, etc.) sold us more than 1 barrel of oil, those Muslim bastards - for our innocent consumption...


    P.S. - just wait, until "anticivilzation" will spread from Germany, when those "lazy" Greeks run out of money to buy their cars... sorry, it already happened.

  17. Dear AA,

    comments about the anticivilization were due to Zeman, not myself, although I largely agree.

    If your question about "why they sell us a lot of oil" is serious, the answer is - and it is the answer to a more general question "why people sell things" - that by selling things, they get money which they may spend for other things they find useful. Have you skipped the explanation of "the money" when you were in the kindergarten? In that case, you should return to the kindergarten and ask your nurse to give you a more comprehensible explanation.

    I didn't understand your mixed ideas about the anticivilization (Zeman's term for the Islamic World) and Germany and Greece on the other side but it's probably because you didn't understand something elementary here.


  18. I don't understand what you may possibly mean by comments that the collective punishment - if we call the structured and careful expulsion "collective punishment" - is unacceptable.

    It's perhaps unacceptable in some utopian world in which everyone loves everyone else and no one has previously seriously hurt anyone else.

    But that's not the world of the mid 1940s. The world of the mid 1940s is a world of intense inter-ethnic hatred that was energized by 6 years of conflicts and oppression. One may use all kinds of meaningless words such as "unacceptable" for those decisions but they were a historical fact and they were largely an inevitable historical fact.

    What I find deeply insulting is some people's suggestion that the Czechoslovak government was acting in an immoral way. It was acting in a morally perfect, generous,, human, maximally democratic way among those that were available to solve the difficult co-existence situation marked by destroyed inter-ethnic relationships - which wasn't the Czechs fault - and the need to introduce at least some kind of "macroscopic justice". I would act pretty much in the same way as the Czechoslovak government did.

  19. i) "Whether something is acceptable or unacceptable is ultimately decided by the will of those who have power." With that line of argument, the Holocaust was acceptable, which a ludicrous supposition.

    ii) You brought up the topic if expulsion of ethnic Germans, not I. Of course, in comparison, the Germans' atrocities is by far greater, I don't think anyone disputes that. (Certainly no one in this thread.)

  20. Here is one source of information on German expulsions after WW2:;jsessionid=B2963DF064AC1324E1455FEC88584E30?sequence=1