NEWS

Crisis does not allow ‘conventional confidence’

There is concern about the economic situation in Eastern Europe. In February, The Economist ran a front page carrying the headline «The bill that could break up Europe,» which claimed the lack of economic reforms in some Eastern European countries could have consequences on those in the West. Do you think this is a fair assessment? I think there sometimes is, especially on rainy days, a tendency to look rather at your neighbor’s garden in order to avoid a thorough inspection of your own fields. And I also think there are strong forces of habit in Western Europe to approach Eastern Europe as a monolithic block. As a Central European country, the Czech Republic is in a privileged position to look at this objectively. We in the EU should make more of an effort to look more closely and carefully and find all relevant data before the concluding opinion is voiced and harsh blanket criticism spelled out. The Czech economy seems to be in better shape than most. Are you confident that it can survive the current turmoil without too many problems? The Czech macroeconomic data so far supports your assessment. I have applauded the decision to establish the apolitical National Economic Council of 10 great Czech experts as an advisory and consultative body to the Czech government, with the primary tasks, for the time being, first, to analyze the risks and potential impacts of the global financial crisis on the Czech economy, and second, to propose measures, steps and tools to eliminate or at least mitigate the potential impacts of the crisis. Nevertheless, anyone with a basic grasp of the gravity of the economic situation today cannot express conventional confidence. The toppling of Topolanek seems to have had more to do with domestic issues than with the pressure of international events. Nevertheless, the Czech government is the third to fall in Eastern Europe this year after those in Latvia and Hungary. Is there a political crisis in this part of Europe? As you have already pointed out, the fall of Mr Mirek Topolanek’s government is not related to the global financial crisis and, therefore, is not indicative of any broader political crisis in this part of Europe. The vote of no confidence in the government led by Mr Topolanek was successful at the fifth attempt by the main opposition party 14 months short of the regular date of the next parliamentary elections, and had nothing to do with anything but the internal political situation. The Czech Republic remains one of the EU members not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Following the fall of the Topolanek government, is there any danger of your country not ratifying the treaty? The process of ratification of this treaty in the Czech Republic is under way, the next step being the vote in the senate. The current development on the domestic political scene brings a complication. However, I believe that the ratification in Prague will be successfully concluded this year.