Byl jsem skeptik, zkušenost to změnila / Rozhovor

S Radosławem Sikorským o jeho víře v Evropskou unii, polských ambicích a české skepsi. Po jeho projevech v Berlíně a v Oxfordu jej komentátoři pasovali na příštího evropského prezidenta, on je však zatím ve své funkci ministra zahraničí Polska spokojený. Radosław Sikorski trpělivě odpovídal na otázky, nakonec neodolal a sám od sebe začal mluvit o kampani proti polským potravinám. Rozhovor vznikal ve spolupráci s novináři ze slovenské SME a maďarského Népszabadságu. Polská zahraniční politika udělala pod vaším vedením obrat, když se odklonila od spojenectví s Británií a USA a mnohem aktivněji usiluje o hlubší evropskou integraci s důrazem na vztahy […]

Who’’s the Deviant Here?

Photo: Roman Vondrouš / ČTK In expressing the ambition to be the voice of the bottom ten million of the unprivileged in his inaugural speech, Miloš Zeman has provided a classic demonstration of an artificial split sought by all politicians of a populist bent, who like to divide society into the virtuous, uncorrupted pure people on the one hand and the corrupt elites on the other. The latter have been variously described as dinosaurs ([journalist and current Chairman of the Czech party Public Affairs Party] Radek John), thieves (Igor Matovič, Chairman of Ordinary People, a Slovak political party), or a […]

Destructive Forces

Photo: Peter Župník While the Senate elections have somewhat dampened the fears that the Communist Party is on the rise, we must nevertheless come to terms with the fact that the time when they will be in government is fast approaching. The problem with the Communists isn’’t so much the threat they pose to democracy (provided, of course, they don’’t garner an overwhelming majority of seats) but rather the fact that they arouse a profound sense of shame and shatter our normal trust in the rational world. The shock of being in the immediate presence of evil – which is […]

Arrival of the Left

Holidays are very important for the spiritual equilibrium of our society, Slovak bishop Stanislav Zvolenský declared, responding to the news that the newly-elected Slovak government  is contemplating cutting down the number of state holidays on the grounds that they slow down the economy. However, this spiritual equilibrium seems more like torpor, into which Slovak society has slid thanks to a new kind of holiday – a day off politics. The overwhelming victory of Smer in the March elections allowed the left of centre party to form a majority government and was met with an astonished silence, ringing with the unspoken […]

Between Hope and Decline

When he invited me to address you, Mr Marek Svoboda said: We would like you to assess the state of democracy in the world; you have a full fifteen minutes. So keep it short and sweet. Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that over the past year we have witnessed the awakening of grass roots democracy in various parts of the world. Democracy is awakening in many unexpected contexts, such as the Arab Spring or the protests in Russia. The bad news is that, on the other hand, in places where we thought democracy […]

Slovakia For Sale

Photo: Peter Župník Svätý Jur, a small town near Bratislava, famous for its wine cellars, is depopulated in the mornings, with its colourful houses and plague column resembling a theatre set. The air is frosty despite the winter sun but the local pub is warm and cosy thanks to the log fire, made of wood from the local Lesser Carpathian mountains that rise right behind the fortifications built in the 17th century to keep out the Turks. As Tom Nicholson enters the pub in his padded jacket, looking as if he has just come down from the hills, the regulars […]

The Octopus named Gorilla

In 1994, as red-faced Vladimír Mečiar left the polling station claiming the electoral committee had prevented him from casting his vote by leaving his name off the electoral list, he scored a big victory by putting on a convincing show of righteous indignation. All day long television showed his angry face sending Slovak voters to ballot boxes by their thousands and handing nearly absolute power to their favourite politician, who had been set upon by dark forces. Since then nobody has managed to pull a diabolical trick that could significantly impact the election results and Slovakia’’s future – right up […]

A Place to Stand On

Give me a place to stand on and I will move the Earth, Archimedes said. Václav Havel applied this belief in the physical essence of the world to the very essence of human existence and tested its strength on his own person. He himself had become the place to stand on in our human universe and ended up moving history. The huge global response to his death shows that the outside world has been more profoundly and fully aware of the strength of Havel’’s personality than many Czechs. For there are few people in the entire history of our civilization […]

Dva dny / Komentár

Každý, komu je dnes nad padesát, asi dokáže odpovědět na otázku, co dělal 21. srpna 1968. Tak silný byl zážitek, když do Československa v ten den vtrhlo půl milionu vojáků Varšavské smlouvy. Na stejnou otázku o 21. červnu 1991, tedy dnu odchodu posledních sovětských vojáků, už by mnoho lidí asi tak snadno odpovědět nedokázalo, to však nic nemění na tom, že ten okamžik má obrovský historický význam. Postižení O hloubce národního traumatu z okupace svědčí fakt, že odsun sovětských vojsk a rozpuštění Varšavské smlouvy se stalo jedním z hlavních témat hned po listopadu 1989. Václavu Havlovi, Jiřímu Dienstbierovi, Luboši Dobrovskému, Michaelu Kocábovi a dalším se už koncem […]

The Lady is Ready to Leave? / Commentary

Only a couple of weeks ago the key issue for Slovakia was how the national ice hockey team would fare in the world championship. The unimaginable happened: Slovakia was knocked out following a bitter series of lost matches. At the time of this writing, the key issue is whether Slovakia’s government under Iveta Radičová can survive, her future as unpredictable as the outcome of a hockey match. The only difference is that Radičová can imagine being defeated and is prepared to speak out about it. What is at issue is that on 17 May Slovakia’s parliament will make the umpteenth […]