A little while ago I covered here the alarming prospect for EU officials that, because of the fall of the current Czech government under prime minster Mirek Topolánek, that notorious Eurosceptic Václav Klaus, the Czech president, would in effect be in charge of much of the European Union’s important business for the remainder of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency (lasting until the end of June). Yesterday we got word from the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita (Klaus will not extend hand to Lukashenko) that Klaus is already putting his stamp upon the EU “Eastern Partnership” summit scheduled to take place in Prague the first week of May, where he is to host the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Ukraine, and Belarus. The president of that last country, Alexander Lukashenko, may very well come to Prague for the occasion (or, indeed, he may decide not to), but if he does, President Klaus will not shake his hand nor include him in the official reception to be held at Prague Castle.
Keep in mind that this “Eastern Partnership” summit actual takes place just before Mirek Topolánek’s government heads out the door and is replaced by a government of technocrats headed by current chief of the Czech Statistical Agency, Jan Fischer. Yet even if Topolánek had any objection to this treatment of the guest from Belarus – there’s no indication either way whether he does – his extreme “lame duck” status would provide him little standing to do anything about it. Besides, no matter who is in charge of the agenda of a summit occurring in Prague, it’s at least always up to the Czech president who he invites to come dine at the Castle.
Plus, it just so happens that this is the right thing to do. Lukashenko has long been known as “Europe’s last remaining dictator” for the ruthless way he manipulates the sham elections he is called upon to stage every so often and persecutes the native political opposition. One complaint against the EU from many who are not privileged to walk the governing halls in Brussels is the way, when some international actor does something nasty which should make him persona non grata, it seems that all that it takes is a certain period of lying low and avoiding any more nasty headlines to get back into the EU’s good graces again. Here Václav Klaus is demonstrating that, despite his somewhat advanced age, there is nothing wrong with his memory or political sense on this issue.