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A dud Czech?

Posted by Helen Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I suppose I ought to apologize for yet another bad pun but they are almost irresistible. This particular dud Czech is Pavel Pribyl, recently appointed government office head by the new Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross.

Unfortunately, Mr Pribyl has a past. Not to put too fine a point on it, he commanded riot police detachments during 1968 and 1969. He stands accused of breaking up student demonstrations in 1969, on the anniversary of the Prague Spring and its suppression, with water canons and truncheons.

The Prime Minister said that this little peccadillo does not mean Mr Pribyl has to step down. His spokesperson, Vera Duskova, has announced that the Interior Ministry records will be opened up to determine Pavel Pribyl’s exact role.

Mr Pribyl himself does not exactly deny the charges. He merely points out in an interview that he was standing 15 metres behind his men and, anyway, he was ordered to do what he did, which was most definitely not anything like truncheon-wielding but, just in case, he is truly sorry now, as he sees that it was the wrong thing to do.

The question is, will the EU do anything about this. Will it simply say that this is internal Czech matter? Perhaps, and as it happens, this is internal Czech matter, though other countries ought to take note of it. But the Stockholm criteria did clearly state that the incoming East European countries ought not to have past thugs in positions of authority. Also, do I not recall all the EU ministers and politicians getting the vapours because Austrians dared to vote for a rather silly right-wing demagogue’s party as a protest against the rather corrupt permanent division of power between the Christian Democrats and the Socialists?

Are we to understand that Communist thugs are somehow acceptable while silly right-wing demagoguges are not?