Written by Pavel Vondra
THE SPRING IS HERE. Or so it seemed yesterday. Unusually sunny weather unleashed what could be only described as human tsunami. The pedestrian, biking and roller-skating traffic on the popular public path along the Vltava River between Vyšehrad and Zbraslav in Prague was far heavier than its motorized counterpart on the same stretch just meters away. I know it, because I saw it.
But despite the temperatures reaching unbelievable – for this time of the year – 20 degrees Celsius in the southern part of the country, it is still not quite the T-shirt time yet. The weather forecast says it will get colder again later in the week.
A welcome change for our reporter Ondřej Besperát, I imagine, who just got back from Kosovo and Belgrade where he experienced a sudden rise in the political temperature, which was far too close for comfort for anyone perceived as not sympathetic enough to the cause each of the sides espouses. A view most likely shared by the Czech troops guarding the border between Serbia and newly independent Kosovo.
I say independent, but that may really be rushing it. Czech diplomacy, for one, has still not made up its mind about if and when to recognize the sovereignty of the youngest country of this planet. And quite a few people, including the shadow foreign minister of the Czech opposition Social Democratic Party, lay out their arguments why it would be best to ignore it altogether.
An issue of this size certainly puts the local political crises in the right perspective, i.e. they suddenly look rather innocent and inconsequential. Although a major (again, for local standards) government crisis may be on the horizon, as the moment draws nearer, when the ex-Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Christian Democratic Party Jiří Čunek expects to rejoin the cabinet, which he left in disgrace last year.
Mr. Čunek said in a debate on public TV on Sunday he no longer sees any obstacles standing in his way, but that is not how the fellow junior coalition partner Green Party sees it. Expect much commotion around this issue in the coming days and weeks. The fresh wounds suffered on many sides in the recent presidential election are not yet healed and given what lies ahead, they may burst open any time.
It is in this context that one has to read a recent study by German Bertelsmann Foundation which evaluated 125 countries in the world in the categories of the status of democracy, political management and economy parameters. While the Czech Republic came out as a transformation leader, the authors noted the visible decline in the local political culture.
While Prague may be a magnet to poorly performing politicians, it is still generating enough money to top the list of the richest regions among the new member states of the European Union, as attested by another recent survey.
It must be the reason behind a recent spotting of a notoriously familiar face in Prague, that of a Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who officially stepped down last week and let his brother do the dirty job in Havana, possibly preparing the ground for his permanent transfer to Prague. Now, how’s that for a political culture booster?
On a slightly less jubilant note, the closely watched trial of the so called Heparin Killer culminated last week. The former nurse in a hospital in Havlíčkův Brod, some 100 kilometres south-east of Prague, was sentenced to life in jail for the murders of seven patients whom he injected with a lethal dose of heparin, an anticoagulant substance which can cause internal bleeding.
And lastly, warning to all of you readers who may want to criticize the author of these lines. With the green light coming from the office of the Ombudsman, regulating internet discussion forums can no longer be considered a violation of freedom of speech. How you like me now, losers?