Slovak President: Politicians should not play with fire and go as far as populism
Yesterday Slovak President Andrej Kiska gave a speech opening the Forum 2000 conference at which he said politicians should be aware of their responsibilities at this complex time. They should not play with fire or use words to spark emotions among people that might have far-reaching consequences, he said.
Kiska also pointed out that during elections and referendums, many democratic politicians unfortunately go as far as populism and begin to play quasi-extremist cards, stirring up xenophobia, intolerance and even hatred in society. In the context of his meeting with the Visegrad Four (V4) countries recently, the Slovak President said words have weight and politicians must very carefully consider when to use them.
During that meeting Friday, Kiska apparently disagreed with Czech President Miloš Zeman regarding how the V4 are being perceived by the rest of the world. Kiska believes the V4 has a bad image abroad and therefore recommended not using it as a cover for domestic political intentions.
The other presidents of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland did not say anything in that vein. Differences of opinion apparently predominated with respect to questions around migration.
"Our European Union, our Europe, and the entire world needs to be responsible for how we speak and the messages we send," Kiska said later at a short briefing with the Czech News Agency and public broadcaster Czech Television. For the speech of more than 20 minutes that he made to the absolutely full Church of St. Anne, a venue now known as the Prague Crossroads, Kiska earned a long standing ovation.
The Slovak President said it is important politicians not bet on playing the quasi-extremist card and that they be able to clearly explain what today's society is about. "We must not slide towards populist declarataons, which may win voters - and it is very easy to win voters through populist, xenophobic declarations - but such talk causes enormous damage to nations and people," he said.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia are, according to Kiska, democratic countries where the citizens decide who will lead them. "It is up to the people what kind of leaders they choose," the told the Czech News Agency when asked whether the Czech Republic and Slovakia are carrying forward Havel's legacy and what a good president might look like.
The topic of this year's Forum 2000 is "The Courage to Take Responsibility", and Kiska considers that topic especially very important today. The Slovak President said it was his great honor to be able to attend the opening ceremony because the conference is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year as well as the 80th anniversary of the birth of Václav Havel on 5 October, the founder of the annual conference who was an outstanding figure of Czechoslovak history.
Kiska also said the Dalai Lama and Havel had inspired him with their humanism, which is the baseline that each person should embody. "Comprehension, empathy, willingness to forgive, to do one's best to understand others and find agreement. Those are characteristics that are lacking today, together with good vision and the correct identification of the phenomena that are arising around us. We are missing Václav Havel," the Slovak President said.
After the ceremony was over, Kiska flew back to Slovakia. The conference will last until Wednesday, 19 October.
The most anticipated guest this year is the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He arrived in Prague yesterday.
Other guests include Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias Sánchez. The main program of Forum 200 is traditionally held at Žofín Palace and will be open to the public.
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