Read the original text at Aktualne.cz.
The session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is not a meeting with citizens in Vysočina province. Audience in Strasbourg took a different view of Milos Zeman's words when he stated about anti-Russian sanctions the same thing that he said at home. However, Zeman did not address voters; he spoke at an international forum on behalf of the Czech Republic. This level is more serious. The world sees us because it sees Zeman. Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union see him.
The saddest thing in this case is that the head of state, which for more than 20 years was occupied by the Soviet Union, believes: the armed annexation of Crimea is a fait accompli. Given our historical experience, rather, one would expect that Zeman would express sympathy for a country, where the neighbor violently took away most of the sovereign territory, which, of course, is illegal. The humiliating era of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia somehow was differently imprinted in the mind of Zeman or left no trace at all.
But instead of it, the Czech president crossed out what had happened in 2014 and focused on the fact that sanctions against Russia do not work, and they should be replaced by a "dialogue between people at different levels." “In my opinion, there will be some compensation for Ukraine [for losing Crimea]…money, oil or gas,” Zeman told the PACE. Not surprisingly, Ukrainians were offended.
As far as we know, Zeman's words contradict what the Czech government says, and contradict government foreign policy. There was no case that the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister lobbied for the lifting of sanctions.
On the contrary, the representatives of the Czech authorities were constantly discussing foreign policy and in November 2016, they came to the unanimous opinion that "it is impossible to talk about the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions until the reasons for which sanctions were imposed have been eliminated." Lubomir Zaoralek said the same thing, confirming that Zeman shared this view.
Since then, the position of the Czech Republic on the issue of sanctions has not officially changed. The government is responsible for foreign policy, and the president of the republic represents the state at the international level, but unlike other politicians, irresponsibly performs his functions. We simply cannot make the world understand the nuances of our constitutional powers: the head of state in Strasbourg speaks on behalf of the state. So, by calling on us to abolish sanctions (and this is an important international topic), Zeman is behaving inadequately. But his inadequate position presents us to the world.
It is noteworthy that, like many times in the past, when Zeman has gone against the government, it remains silent for several hours. This aggravates not only the visible and factual duality of our international position, but also creates the impression that Zeman manages everything in the country. However, with rare exception, it is not true - at least because on paper all his powers are written out in black and white. In practice, everything is different: our government, the ministers do not comment on Zeman, so it really seems that he is a real boss. The ministers keep silent, although they should have spoken out, or sometimes they even echo the president.
The media became gradually accustomed to Zeman-boss. Meetings of the "presidential team" become a real media event, as if this event is decisive. When Zeman, for example, "rejects quotas" (for refugees), all publications write about this, as if the president has the authority to accept or reject something. When Zeman wants something or does not want, his opinion is greatly overestimated, although the possibilities to implement some solution are very limited. Those who are actually responsible for the decisions, unfortunately, are passive and even humble. Zeman does not decide anything, but he says, and politicians who decide and have authority are too liable to influence him. All this is one of the harmful tendencies of the current presidential term, which we should get rid of.
The trend is most evident in foreign policy, which Zeman, without even having the authority for it, has sharply reoriented from the West to the East. This should be a warning for the future governments and voters.
P.S. It is impossible to imagine that in the 90s Vaclav Havel, speaking at the European forum, said something contrary to the position of the government, although in the world he had much more weight than Milos Zeman does now. Still, the Klaus government - partly unfairly - blamed Havel in his free behavior abroad. If Havel did like Zeman, then the former Prime Minister Klaus would simply have had a stroke.