Czech president Miloš Zeman. Photo: Miloslav Hamřík (CC BY-SA 3.0)

I apologize for the president of my country

Unfortunately, scandals is Czech president Miloš Zeman’s trademark.

Krystof Diatka is a Panorama contributing reporter. He studies at HiMolde.

In 2011 Barnevernet removed two Czech boys from the custody of their parents living in Norway. The mother of the boys claims that the act was unjustified and still struggles to reverse the process. This affair was the subject of a recent interview with Czech president Miloš Zeman for Czech magazine Blesk.

In the interview he said:

“Do you know what Lebensborn was? It was a Nazi establishment, which raised Nazi children. Those two boys are in a foster institution similar to Lebensborn.”

First let’s  get some facts straight. Lebensborn was a Nazi institution that worked on purification of Nordic race mostly by breeding racially “correct“ children but also by picking the “right“ children from occupied populations.

Barnevernet (the Norwegian child welfare service) ensures that children and young people have a safe childhood. This cause is accomplished by support, counseling and – when situation requires it – by placing children into foster homes or orphanages.

Despite the ongoing discussion about the methods and means of Barnevernet, Zeman’s simile is way over the edge.

One of the main duties of a president is to represent the country. To execute this effectively the person has to have tact and sense to feel fragile nuances of international politics. Citizens of the Czech Republic are well acquainted with the fact that Miloš Zeman lacks those skills totally and piles scandal upon scandal. It is more problematic though, when his disgraceful statements comprise citizens of other countries, who are not familiar with the context and the fact that Miloš Zeman is arrogant and  just says whatever he feels like. He doesn’t seem to have any concern for what sort of light his absurd remarks throw on the Czech Republic.

Let me present you with couple of many examples so you can draw a mental image of what sort of person Miloš Zeman is. Many of his statements are not supported by facts. In his official speech on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, he claimed that Winston Churchill in January 1939 sent a letter to Adolf Hitler where he supposedly wrote: “If my nation was struck down by a huge catastrophe, I wish that it was led by a man with strong will such as yours.” A letter containing this sentence and Winston Churchill’s signature has not been found anywhere.

Miloš Zeman used vulgarisms such as “cunt”, “whores” and “fucked up” on a live radio show. Words like that that are in breach of the ethical code of the Czech radio station that was airing the broadcast. After the scandal the radio station presented the president with an option to prerecord further interviews in the series, so such ethical violations could be edited out. He refused and the planned broadcasts will probably be canceled.

In May 2013, during a ceremonial inspection of the Czech crown jewels, Miloš Zeman was considerably drunk. He was so drunk that he could not conceal staggering around. At one point, to keep his balance, he leaned on the table with the display of the jewels. According to the president’s office Miloš Zeman suffered viraemia that day and it was this condition that resulted in his drunken appearance. The reader could examine the truthfulness of this statement by watching this video:

Miloš Zeman does not conceal that he wants to be shocking and scandalous. In the already mentioned Blesk magazine interview he said: “Every interview with me has to cause a scandal.” Making such statements from the position of a president is just preposterous.

The fact that the Czech society starts to be fed up with the president’s behavior is well illustrated. During the November 2014 anniversary of the Velvet revolution a protest was organized where thousands of people arrived with symbolical red cards for the president and requested his resignation. Later that day the crowd even threw eggs at Miloš Zeman himself. If that is not a reflection of the mood in a society, than what is?

Despite the fact that presidency of Miloš Zeman is an outcome of democratic election in the Czech Republic and I am a Czech citizen, I dissociate myself from this person. I hereby declare that Miloš Zeman is not my president.

Comparing a Norwegian institution to practices of Nazi Germany is reckless and horrible, and for that I apologize.