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Citát dne

Karel Havlíček Borovský
26. června r. 1850

KOMUNISMUS znamená v pravém a úplném smyslu bludné učení, že nikdo nemá míti žádné jmění, nýbrž, aby všechno bylo společné, a každý dostával jenom část zaslouženou a potřebnou k jeho výživě. Bez všelikých důkazů a výkladů vidí tedy hned na první pohled každý, že takové učení jest nanejvýš bláznovské, a že se mohlo jen vyrojiti z hlav několika pomatených lidí, kteří by vždy z člověka chtěli učiniti něco buď lepšího neb horšího, ale vždy něco jiného než je člověk.

 


SVOBODA  NENÍ  ZADARMO

„Lepší je být zbytečně vyzbrojen než beze zbraní bezmocný.“

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Jan Šinágl,
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Stasek Miroslav a diplomateThe destructive cocktail of vested interests and widespread corruption is the misfortune and pain of our state. Every year, billions from the budget end up in the private accounts of individuals. Corruption has a powerful influence on the decision-making of government and local politicians and lowers the standard of living of everyone. It affects all branches of government, from road and motorway construction to health care.

It is not just about financial donations; the forms of corruption are varied, from cash to paid trips, luxury gifts, lucrative contracts or grants to lucrative positions on supervisory boards or in the civil service, where ambassadorial posts are among the most popular.

But it doesn't stop there. Every newly appointed deputy, chief director and sometimes even "mere" director chooses an office and a secretariat, gets new equipment, brings in assistants. And, especially in the case of the State Department, they start travelling. The number of inspection, control and other missions increases by leaps and bounds. Towards the end of the term, these staff usually become ambassadors.

Personnel changes happen for the benefit of individuals, not for the cause. My view of the workings of the civil service is based on the fact that I worked for 30 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from December 1989 to July 2019. Thirteen ministers changed during that time. Let me briefly recall them and their trail.

Among them - I won't name names - a former mathematician who calculated that it would be profitable to buy an apartment in his country and rent it out. He arranged a loan from the bank, but he guaranteed it securely: the embassy building.

A former employee of the Ministry of Defence, who liked to drink alcohol and drunkenly harassed young women under his command and demanded their favour, made it all the way to ambassador. I personally witnessed such behaviour and complained to the Ministry, but he was a protégé of the Minister, so nothing happened.

Another newly appointed director was going round embassies to see which state-owned property could be sold at a good price. Of course, all construction and other financially interesting contracts were awarded to companies close to the ministry's management.

These intense years were followed by a quiet period under the leadership of the People's Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda (2002-2006). However, he also brought in "his people" who were rewarded for their party activity and loyalty with interesting posts.

He even stated that it is common in Europe for former politicians to become ambassadors. However, this does not correspond to reality. Civilised countries do not practice this at all or only rarely.

Strict rules also apply to the number of new staff ministers are allowed to bring with them, usually one deputy and a personal assistant. In our practice, however, there have been dozens of new staff.

In 2014, the Social Democrats sent Lubomír Zaorálek to head our diplomacy, and he appointed his favourite, Petr Drulák, as his first deputy. Together, they overhauled our foreign policy, reorganising and making massive personnel changes both at headquarters and abroad.

They removed the human rights agenda from Czech foreign policy and the interests of Moscow and Beijing became the new, albeit unofficial, priority. The ministry was headed by a record number of deputies, and even new drivers had to be hired.

More than a hundred new recruits were added to the foreign service, many without the necessary qualifications, just a waiver granted by the minister. As the launch of the Civil Service Act was imminent, members of not only the Social Democrats but also members of other government parties and movements were heading for the civil service in large numbers.

In several cases, the selection process was rigged in favour of candidates recommended by the leadership. One senior official, for example, succumbed so much to the intoxication of his own driver and his own importance that he had himself driven to the Czernin Palace from the Tuscany Palace, a distance of three hundred metres.

The Czech diplomacy established the function of agricultural diplomats, with retired police officers and soldiers among the ambassadors. The economic cooperation section was strengthened at the expense of the political unions, but this step did not always bring the proclaimed benefits.

The Zeman-style concept of promoting the economy and trade certainly did not work. While economic diplomacy is an important part of the foreign policy of any developed country, its success is not based on the number of trade and economic diplomats sent. It is to be guided by the conditions in each country and to be well thought out and specifically targeted, tailored to the individual country.

An ambassador in exchange for a quid pro quo

A funny case occurred when a member of the ČSSD, who had previously applied for the foreign service but failed in the initial interviews, was appointed one of the highest ministerial officials. After two years he resigned from his high post and became ambassador.

Jakub Kulhánek, a Social Democrat, was catapulted to the position of deputy minister. After the Civil Service Act came into force, he had to leave because of his lack of language skills, but soon returned as minister, albeit only for a few months, to head abroad as ambassador. He proposed and approved himself using the ministerial right to grant exemption without giving any reason.

The Czernin Palace was taken over by Tomas Petricek in October 2018 for three years. He has faced all the challenges that have accumulated there. At a time when President Zeman interfered unprecedentedly in his competences, he managed to steer Czech foreign policy back towards the Western allies and, with a few exceptions, put professionals in leading positions.

In my opinion, the current Foreign Minister Lipavský is doing an excellent job, both in the field of foreign policy and in practical organisational and personnel matters.

The current practice of the Minister appointing his party colleagues to important posts has, in addition to the distortion of the civil service and direct financial losses, had a tangible impact on career diplomats, for whom it is completely demotivating.

It is not surprising that many talented, high-quality and qualified men and women leave for the private sphere after realising that they have no security of career progression.

The main value of Czech diplomacy is its diplomats, but we are losing them through misguided post-Soviet politicking. It would be more than desirable for our diplomats to finally see a quality Foreign Service Act that takes into account all the specifics of working abroad.

A special chapter is the filling of ambassadorial posts. For unknown reasons, the habit of making ambassadors out of former politicians or senior civil servants has taken hold in this country. Members of the government, MPs and senators, and in the recent past even advisers to the President, like to intervene in the process of appointing ambassadors.

According to the constitution, the candidate for this exceptional post is approved by the government and endorsed by the prime minister and the president, but this does not mean that politicians should offer their party colleagues to the foreign minister, preferably in exchange for a quid pro quo.

The civil service, in order to function, must be non-partisan; we cannot afford to keep starting from scratch, it is expensive and inefficient. Career insecurity leads to nervousness and tension in the workplace, creating an unfavourable working environment. Raising salaries is not the solution.

The new Civil Service Act was supposed to bring firm rules, but as long as it allows exceptions, the rules can easily be circumvented, as we are also seeing in practice. If party interests continue to prevail over expertise in the civil service, we will not see the necessary changes for the better.

Full Article>

***

P.S.

Photo top right - in the middle former State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Miroslav Stašek. Now the Czech Ambassador to the USA - for knowingly covering up corruption and fraud at the Czech Embassy in Morocco. JŠ

 

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