Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce critic of all things related to the European Union, is the only thing standing between Europe’s élite club and its mighty future. Until he signs the Lisbon Treaty — the Czech Republic is the last holdout among E.U. members — the E.U.’s grand reform plan remains in limbo. While politicians across the continent have spent weeks wringing their hands, trying to figure out how to compel Klaus to sign the document, the majority of Czechs are standing behind their leader. “I actually like him. He is an intelligent man who knows what he is talking about,” says Anna Hrubesova, a 17-year-old student…
Vaclav Klaus is a populist — not to be confused with Vaclav Havel, the dissident poet who was jailed under the Communist regime and became president in the modern democratic era. Part of Klaus’s stalling tactic has involved stoking fears that Germans who were ousted after WWII could reclaim their land via EU courts.
As the article later explains:
Havel has blasted the President’s [Klaus] holdout position as “irresponsible and dangerous.” Author Jaroslav Rudis, who has written about the expelled Germans, also questioned Klaus’ motives. “Every time I hear someone play this card I feel like the war has never ended,” he tells TIME. “It’s like it’s from a different planet.”
Different planet? Oh, I can relate. This is the part where I share the Czech/EU experience of my dad — an accomplished political scientist, a Czech expat (and later re-pat), a fervent anti-Communist and general fan of democracy.
When he moved back to the Czech Republic, he couldn’t get the filterless Commander, Chesterfield and Lucky Strike cigarettes he’d grown accustomed to in his post-war U.S. salad days.
[Moderate smoking of filterless cigarettes, my zealous and devout smoking father assured me, has “an immunizing effect” against lung cancer. Must be filterless, mind you; filters only filter out the protective stuff. “So I should start smoking them now then?” my 12-year-old self asked him. Him, quickly: “No.”]
So my dad would have us buy cartons of these cigarettes — for some reason, they were plentiful at the Discount Smoke Shop — and ship them over to him in his village abode in the Czech hills. Until one year where the shipment was stopped. He got a notice from the postmaster that he would have to come to Prague (two hours away) to retrieve them and pay a duty, because he was importing essentially a small suitcase load of cigs. The limit was 50 (cigarettes or packs, I can’t remember).
His response? Probably send a relative with a doctor’s note to Prague to say he was physically incapable of retrieving the cigarettes, yet also in medical need of them. But beyond that: He asked us to send him one carton at a time, in different kinds of envelopes, with different handwriting on the address label. (Being something of a font/handwriting zealot myself, I took up the task once just for the fun of it, to see how much I could screw up Czech addresses in oblivious American handwriting.)
After he hatched this plan for us, though, he vented to me: “Now I really wish I’d never voted for joining the EU.”