Mixed reactions abroad for president-elect
Zeman praised for EU and Russia stance but is slammed for anti-German remarks
Posted: January 30, 2013
As leaders from the east and west of Europe congratulated Miloš Zeman on his presidential victory Jan. 26, some foreign media outlets took a more critical tone, chastising the president-elect for the anti-German remarks he made during his campaign.
The German government should not invite Zeman to Berlin due to his anti-German campaign, the daily Die Welt newspaper claimed in an editorial Jan. 28. It said the candidate's campaign comments regarding the 1945 deportation of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia pointed to a language of hate that should not be tolerated in European politics.
Another German newspaper, Südwest Presse, referred to the president-elect as a "leftist dinosaur" who sowed fear in the minds of "little people" to get himself elected. "The Sudeten German topic is unlikely to have any political relevance for Zeman's political practice. It just served him as a way to get to Prague Castle," the newspaper wrote.
In the realm of European politics, the reactions to Zeman's victory were more amicable. After a decade of fierce Euroskepticism espoused by President Václav Klaus, the return of a pro-European president to Prague Castle is being keenly anticipated in Brussels.
"The citizens of the Czech Republic have elected in you a personality who in his previous role of prime minister made a significant contribution to the country's transformation and its subsequent accession to the European Union," wrote European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
"I am confident that Miloš Zeman will be a president of dialogue and reconciliation, under whose stewardship the Czech Republic will play an important role in our debate about the future of Europe," said European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
The new president's first official visit abroad will be to Slovakia, where the country's prime minister has also congratulated the next Czech head of state. "Regardless of the result, it was clear already before the run-off that the next Czech president would be an outstanding figure. I respect the will of Czech people and, of course, congratulate Miloš Zeman on winning the election," said Prime Minister Robert Fico in a statement.
In Poland, President Bronisław Komorowski expressed his hope for "the continuation of close cooperation, both in bilateral ties as well as within the EU and the Visegrad Group." In a phone conversation with Zeman, Komorowski also invited his counterpart to pay a visit to Warsaw, and the invitation was accepted.
"I think, for example, that we can successfully submit to the EU a joint project concerning the Danube-Oder river corridor," Zeman said after the pair spoke.
During the campaign, Zeman's pro-Russian business links came under public scrutiny. The president-elect is expected to pursue stronger ties with the Kremlin once in office. In a letter of congratulations, Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope for "further development of a political dialogue" and wished him every success in the "responsible state post."
"In Russia, Miloš Zeman is known as a proponent of the strengthening of friendly Russian-Czech relations," Putin said in the telegram.
The U.S. response to Zeman's election came in the form of a brief statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Prague, which also congratulated the citizens of the Czech Republic for their "successful completion of their first-ever direct election of their president."
"We look forward to working with [Zeman] on the many issues of mutual concern to our two countries," it added.
Andrew Greene can be reached at