Is Prague endorsing the FPÖ's campaign?

Three weeks before presidential elections in Austria Czech President Miloš Zeman will meet with Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). Commentators voice surprise at this new friendship between the two opponents of immigration.

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Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Populism more important than yesterday's gossip

In the past the two politicians never had much to say to each other, the public broadcaster Český rozhlas observes tongue-in-cheek commenting on next Monday's meeting at which Norbert Hofer is hoping to have "a pleasant chat" with President Miloš Zeman:

“What will the two chat about? Nuclear energy, which Zeman backs unreservedly (his government gave the green light for the Temelín nuclear power plant to start operating), but which Hofer criticises just as unreservedly? Or perhaps the Sudeten Germans, who were Hitler's fifth column as far as Zeman was concerned, while Hofer made the abolishment of the Beneš decrees [the legal basis for the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans after World War II] a precondition for the settlement between the two countries? Or the Czech Republic's sanctions against Austria because of the participation of Hofer's FPÖ in the Austrian government back in 2000? No, they will talk about the supposed danger of a Muslim invasion and the terrorist threat. What is it they say? No one has a shorter memory than politicians and small children who have done something stupid.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Zeman must not interfere

Prague's taking sides with Hofer is nothing less than a diplomatic scandal, Hospodářské noviny believes:

“This is not about Hofer criticising migration, fuelling anti-Islam sentiment or calling for Austria to leave the EU. Zeman is entitled to ally himself with whomever he wants but not to set himself up as a judge in Austria's domestic debates. The meeting is all the more strange in that 16 years ago, as prime minister, Zeman joined the calls for EU sanctions against Austria over the participation of Jörg Haider's FPÖ in government. Opinions and values change. Only Zeman isn't a private individual, but a head of state. As such he can't just meet with anyone he likes because all his meetings have symbolic and political value.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

Austria would be a boon for Visegrád Group

Mladá fronta dnes, on the other hand, believes the meeting between Zeman and Hofer could lead to a productive coalition between the Visegrád states and Austria:

“Zeman and his potential Austrian counterpart are looking for allies on the international stage. They are writing a new chapter in the history of Central European politics. An alliance between the V4 and Austria could help curb the constant criticism of the Visegrád. So far no one has taken these countries seriously. Anyone with a stance that differs slightly from the official EU doctrine is immediately branded a populist, nationalist or paid agent of Russia. Then all of a sudden one had to start taking these 'nationalists and populists' into account and negotiate with them. Strengthening the V4, which has become the voice of reason, would be good news for Central Europe and Europe as a whole. And alliance between these two presidents would contribute to this process.”