Liberal Czech right-winger Topolanek to take top EU chair

30th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

In his eyes, the Czech Republic's future rests in a "Euro-Atlantic" rather than European perspective, and the construction of a US radar on Czech soil has a priority over the ratification of the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty.

Prague -- Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who will take over the rotating European Union presidency on January 1, has found a place as the strong man on the right wing of the local political scene, next to euroskeptic President Vaclav Klaus.

In his eyes, the Czech Republic's future rests in a "Euro-Atlantic" rather than European perspective, and the construction of a US radar on Czech soil has a priority over the ratification of the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty.

Known for his direct way of speaking and sometimes questionable manners, the 52-year-old pragmatic started his political career after the fall of communism to become the chairman of the liberal right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) in 2002 and the country's prime minister four years later.

Topolanek, who has a university diploma in engineering, joined the country's strongest right-wing party, co-founded by Klaus, in 1994.

At forty, he became the youngest Czech senator. In 1998, he was elected the head of ODS senators and in December 2002 he took the party over as chairman despite his "provincial" image as Klaus stepped down to run for president.

Topolanek's relations with Klaus, rather cold from the start, continued to worsen after the general elections in 2006, which put Topolanek at the head of a center-right three-party coalition cabinet.

To Klaus's dismay, voter support for the Topolanek-led Civic Democrats has been falling steadily since the 2006 polls, resulting in a crushing loss in October's senatorial and regional elections.

At a recent party congress, the upset president said this was no longer the party he had co-founded.

Klaus has slammed Topolanek for teaming up with the Greens in the cabinet, as well as for his efforts to push the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which the Czech Republic has not even started yet as the last member of the 27-nation bloc.

In the two years of its existence, Topolanek's cabinet has lost its narrow majority in parliament and now has to rely on half a dozen independent MPs, but it has also survived several no-confidence votes.

Topolanek, born May 15, 1956 in the eastern Czech town of Vsetin, has three children with his wife Pavla and a year-old son with Lucie Talmanova, an MP for the Civic Democrats.

AFP/Expatica

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