Those socialist European Union countries sure are sensitive, as are the Times reporters who support them. Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle reported Thursday from Paris (with help from Dan Bilefsky) on comments by Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, current president of the 27-nation European Union, claiming that Barack Obama's "stimulus package" was "a way to hell" that would undermine the global financial market.
According to the Times, Toplanek, whose nation now holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, is an "embarrassment" to Europe for criticizing Obama and not going along with traditional deficit-embracing EU paternalism. Topolanek is somehow contributing to a "crisis of leadership" at the EU, as if things were going just swimmingly for the member nations before the Czech Republic assumed the largely ceremonial role in November 2008.
Erlanger and Castle wrote:
The European Union's crisis of leadership during the economic downturn was thrown into sharp relief on Wednesday, as the current president of the 27-nation bloc labeled President Obama's emergency stimulus package "a way to hell" that will "undermine the stability of the global financial market."
The blunt comments by the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the union, came just a week before a crucial meeting of the Group of 20 that was called to show global solidarity in fighting the recession. The comments were greeted with embarrassment by many Europeans who believe that the Czech leader does not represent a European consensus.
What made the situation even more trying for those who hope that the European Union might find a common voice in this crisis was that Mr. Topolanek's own governing coalition collapsed on Tuesday. The Czech opposition party, which favors bigger increases in domestic spending during the slump, won a no-confidence vote on his leadership.
Mr. Topolanek's remarks were considered impolitic, with the German leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, telling him, "You have not understood what the task of the E.U. presidency is," and describing his comments as "not the level on which the E.U. ought to be operating with the United States."
For some reason the Times is very concerned with the EU not being embarrassed, and quotes EU bureaucrats to slam Topolanek:
A senior European Union official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of the embarrassing nature of the issue, said everyone hoped to de-emphasize the trans-Atlantic dispute over fiscal policy. "We don't think we need it, we don't think the world needs it and we don't think it makes sense," the official said.
Katinka Barysch, deputy director of the London-based Center for European Reform, said that Mr. Topolanek had undermined a consensus that was carefully forged at last week's European Union summit meeting in Brussels. "The E.U. had made some progress towards a coherent position," Ms. Barysch said. "He has undermined that."
Not until the very last paragraph did the Times hint at a rationale behind Topolanek's statements:
Analysts in Prague said that Mr. Topolanek was eager to show that he was still politically relevant. They noted that some countries, like the Czech Republic, which emerged from decades of Communism, were deeply suspicious of state intervention in the economy.
The Times is constantly being "embarrassed" by free-market leaders from the Czech Republic. Last November, on the eve of the country's assumption of the EU presidency, the Times issued a story by Dan Bilefsky (who also contributed to Thursday's report from Prague) mocking President Vaclev Klaus for his free-market stand and creepily quoting Soviet secret police files to portray him as arrogant. Too bad the Times can't get equally worked up over, say, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
In the 1980s, a Communist secret police agent infiltrated clandestine economics seminars hosted by Vaclav Klaus, a fiery future leader of the Czech Republic, who had come under suspicion for extolling free market virtues. Rather than reporting on Marxist heresy, the agent was most struck by Mr. Klaus's now famous arrogance....Now the Czech Republic is about to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union and there is palpable fear that Mr. Klaus will embarrass the world's biggest trading bloc and complicate its efforts to address the economic crisis and expand its powers.