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Mečiar's jokes provoke deadly serious reaction

On December 4, at a regularly held Bratislava rally at Pasienky sports arena, Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, in an apparent attempt to score some humour points with his voters, told the crowd a few jokes aimed at top Czech politicians. The Czechs, unfortunately, were struggling to cope with domestic political turmoil and were not tickled by Mečiar's ribaldry: the Slovak leader's wit ended up causing a diplomatic incident and cancellation of the Czech and Slovak foreign ministers' meeting that had been scheduled for the following week.
Commenting on the Czech governmental crisis, Mečiar told an audience crammed with aging supporters who had been bussed in from all over Slovakia that he had always respected Klaus. He called the Czech developments a "coup" and added that he would never meet with any "coupist prime minister that replaces Klaus."


Surviving Klaus. Vladimír Mečiar waves Klaus farewell with a comical tribute that scored no diplomatic points.
Peter Brenkus

On December 4, at a regularly held Bratislava rally at Pasienky sports arena, Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, in an apparent attempt to score some humour points with his voters, told the crowd a few jokes aimed at top Czech politicians. The Czechs, unfortunately, were struggling to cope with domestic political turmoil and were not tickled by Mečiar's ribaldry: the Slovak leader's wit ended up causing a diplomatic incident and cancellation of the Czech and Slovak foreign ministers' meeting that had been scheduled for the following week.

Commenting on the Czech governmental crisis, Mečiar told an audience crammed with aging supporters who had been bussed in from all over Slovakia that he had always respected Klaus. He called the Czech developments a "coup" and added that he would never meet with any "coupist prime minister that replaces Klaus."

After that testimonial, Mečiar offered a peculiar demonstration of his avowed respect for Klaus by telling the following joke: "There is a new banknote in the Czech Republic. On one side, there is Havel with [his wife] Dášenka in bed, on the other side, there is Klaus with [the Czech] crown up his ass."

The crowd roared with laughter, but the best joke was still to come, one featuring the guardian angel of Havel's new wife, Dáša Havlová, whom the Czech president married earlier this year not long after the death of his first wife Olga.

The guardian angel, Meciar explained, woke up Dáša Havlová in the middle of the night and advised her to jump out of the window, which she promptly did and fell to her death.

"The guardian angel returns to heaven," Mečiar continued, "and Saint Peter says, 'Olga Havlová, your first assignment and already such a mess!'"

The Czech foreign ministry was not long in responding. Slovakia's ambassador in Prague, Ivan Mjartan, was summoned the very next day to receive a protest note. Czech politicians, regardless of their political affiliation, were appalled.

"The Slovak prime minister violated what is normal in civilized countries," Lubomír Zaorálek, a deputy for the opposition Social Democratic Party, told a press conference. He added that Mečiar's statements only proved to him that it is "not by accident that Slovakia is being left out of the integration process [into western institutions]."

The Slovak foreign ministry reacted a day later by issuing a diplomatic note in which it assured the public that cooperation and good relations with the Czech Republic remain 'an unchangeable priority' for Slovakia. Following the statement, Jozef Šesták, the ministry's State Secretary officially responsible for European integration, said that "the matter is closed for us."

But the affair was far from closed for the Czechs. After receiving the note, the Czech side stated that it was unsatisfactory and proceeded to cancel the scheduled trip of foreign minister Filip Šedivý to Slovakia, where he had been supposed to meet his Slovak counterpart, Zdenka Kramplová.

However, members of Mečiar's party apparently saw nothing wrong in their leader's statements. "Why should I react?," Alica Bieliková, a HZDS deputy, asked a Radio Twist reporter. "I see no reason to denounce what he said. What do you expect me to tell you? Mr. Mečiar is the leader of our party."

Augustín Marián Húska, parliamentary deputy speaker and the HZDS's deputy chairman said he believed that Mečiar's statements were only a result of the distress that had been caused by opposition parliamentarians earlier in the afternoon (please see story on page 16).

"Vladimír Mečiar said nothing that would require an apology to Havel," said Vladimír Hagara, the HZDS spokesman.

"I was [at Pasienky] and I know Mr. Premier did not mean it badly, and it did not even sound badly," wrote Anna Čapová from Bratislava in Slovenská Republika daily, a government mouthpiece. "He is not a medicine man, able to bewitch someone with words. There have been so many malicious statements about Vladimír Mečiar and Slovakia, and we haven't sent diplomatic notes to anyone."

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