The Last Word: "Terrible arrogance from Czechs"

Bohumil Doležal, 60, in 1992 became the chief advisor to then-Czech Prime Minister Václav Klaus. He spoke to the Slovak weekly paper Domino fórum [Issue #40, October 5-11] about the relationship between Klaus and then-Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, a topic which has aroused much speculation about what the two men really thought of each other.

Domino fórum (DF): How does one become the chief advisor to a politician like Klaus?

Bohumil Doležal (BD): We have known each other since the 1960s when we worked as colleagues for the Tvár ('Face') magazine. In 1992 I left the Liberal Democratic Party, but wanted to remain in politics. Today I think I shouldn't have done so.

DF: After 1989 political parties started to form. Why did you become a member of the Liberal Democratic Party?

BD: Because they were hardworking, honest people, but it turned out that as a party they were very weak. So after 1989 I agreed to cooperate with Klaus.

DF: What issues did you advise him on?

BD: I was the chief political advisor, so I gave him my opinions on the split of the [Czech and Slovak] federation, on constitutional matters connected with the split, on relations with Germany and so on.

DF: They sometimes say that Klaus does not listen to anyone but himself. Did you have that feeling too?

BD: (Laughs) Klaus listens very closely when you are saying something he agrees with. When you say something else he doen't take it into consideration very much. But our relationship was influenced for the better by the fact that we had known each other for so long.

DF: Does Klaus support the idea of a centralised state?

BD: He does. Like every political manipulator he is aware of the fact that society is easier to manipulate when it's centralised. That has been a Czech vice ever since 1918.

DF: How did you advise him on the split of Czechoslovakia?

BD: I supported the split. I thought that after all the mistakes that occurred during our co-existence in the past, nothing else could be done apart from ensuring a peaceful split.

DF: And [what did] Klaus [think]?

BD: On this we were 95% in agreement. The remaining 5% lay in Klaus' belief that with the split we'd get rid of an economic burden. And there was one more "problem" - between him and Mečiar there was a special kind of understanding. Klaus tends to think in rough dimensions, and therefore he was able to ignore the dangerous features in Mečiar.

DF: Klaus and Mečiar appeared in public almost like allies. What did Klaus really think of Mečiar?

BD: I think he realised that there was no point in trying to push Mečiar to the wall and that in certain matters coming to an agreement with him was possible. But also I guess he was glad that Mečiar would be the Prime Minister of Slovakia, and not the other side. Of course, Klaus knew that Mečiar was following a political and economic line for which he [Klaus] would not bear responsibility.

DF: If Klaus knew Mečiar's line was unacceptable, did he ever worry about what he would do to Slovakia following the split?

BD: I think he believed that he should not interfere in Slovak affairs. Mečiar got 37% support, and everything flowed from that. Klaus knew he could't do anything. I'm very happy that Mečiar no longer governs your country, but should he return after elections, we would have to respect that again.

DF: Did Klaus feel contempt for Mečiar?

BD: I wouldn't say that. He respected him as an elected politician.

DF: Is Klaus to be more "credited" for the split than Mečiar?

BD: That's a matter for Slovaks to reflect on. Klaus had no interest in founding a Slovak independent state, but in the given situation he supported the idea of a Czech state. And that was correct. Originally, Mečiar maybe imagined a more free union, but after he saw it wouldn't work, he accepted the inevitability of the split.

DF: Do you think the Czechs hurt the Slovaks [during the split of the Czechoslovak federation]?

BD: There was terrible arrogance from the Czechs indeed. But of course, there were good things too. Above all I think that once you create a centralised state it's practically impossible to reform it into two equal republics.

DF: What do you think about the current Slovak political scene?

BD: Still a problem with Mečiar.

DF: From a Slovak viewpoint Czech politics seems very boring and tiring, because they revolve around disputes between Klaus, [Czech Prime Minister Miloš] Zeman and [President Vaclav] Havel.

BD: There's nobody else here. Our political potential is defined by these three men. But it's good that the three partners are balanced and none of them has a dominant position over the others as it was in 1993 with Klaus.

DF: Politics that are based on personalities and not ideas are dangerous, no?

BD: In post-communist countries personalities play a big role. It will maybe take 30 years until this changes.

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