Angela Merkel is coming to the Czech republic. As I pointed out in my August 13 post, this represents an enormous opportunity for Czech leaders not only to reaffirm what is working (economic, trade), but to express to her what is not working and will not work (open borders and migrant quotas).
PM Sobotka and his “German pandering” advisors seem too “star-struck” with Merkel to deal with her as equals. This is unfortunate. Already, Team Sobotka has gone out of their way to stress that this visit is not about the migrant crisis dividing the EU. True, one can talk about how well both economies are doing and efforts to continue with what is working; however, it would be irresponsible and negligent not to challenge the Chancellor’s migration policies. After all, her EU solution is to keep the EU border open to all that seek it, and then to develop a permanent refugee resettlement mechanism (forced quotas) for every member state, including the Czech Republic.
This is not the Czech position, nor is the multiculturalism of France and Western Europe a way of life that Czechs would tolerate. However, this is Merkel’s Vision not only for Germany, but the entire EU as well. Sobotka and his CSSD party cannot just “wish this away”; they may not want to talk about it, but you can be certain that Angela Merkel does. She may look feeble at times, but she is a relentless and tough women. Merkel will seek to “break” the unity of the V4 on their opposition to her policies and she knows Sobotka, who aims to please Brussels, is the weak link. In addition, one of his closest advisors, former PM and Brussels bureaucrat Spidla, is virtually a lobbyist for Berlin. His advice may be tainted and may not be in the best interests of the citizens of the Czech Republic.
But this visit cannot be wasted with just songs of solidarity. It represents a golden opportunity to inform Merkel that the CR strongly disagrees with her policies and that she needs to respect not only Czech sovereignty but the Czech culture and way of life. A healthy relationship between two countries cannot exist while one attempts to subject the other. The Czech Republic cannot control the internal policies of Germany; nor should they allow Germany to determine theirs. Merkel has to be told this in a professional but strong manner that demands respect; otherwise, her demands will continue.
The V4 has so far, for the most part, been united and their early opposition helped change the debate; more nations are starting to follow their lead. It is vital that the Czech republic stands with the others in the V4, for if Merkel breaks their unity, she may prevail in the end. This would be a disaster for both Europe and the Czech Republic.
Unfortunately, I do not believe Sobotka and the CSSD have the strength and fortitude to defy Merkel. The one person who does and who has openly said he will defy the EU and Merkel on quotas is Finance Minister Babis. No wonder Sobotka wants to keep Babis detained and “away from the Merkel ball”; he does not want Babis stealing the spotlight before the fall elections.
Babis is not the token opposition Merkel craves; in fact his business resume gives him the credentials to challenge her strongly. In other words, while his years in government may be dwarfed by Merkel, in many other ways he may be in a league above her (yes this writer values a successful private career over a career in government service). At the very least, he will deal with her as an equal and not a “fan in awe”.
One gets the sense that Babis knows the stakes. On the other hand, Sobotka seems to be trying to play both sides by trying to talk tough for Czechs while bowing to Merkel and Brussels in the end. On August 25th, we may find out where Sobotka’s true heart belongs.