Jan Macháček

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Czech Business Weekly

The imaginable past of stopgap PM Tošovský

19. 02. 2007
A series of articles last week intended to show that Josef Tošovský, the former central bank governor who in 1998 put in a short stint as prime minister, willingly played ball with the communist StB secret police between 1986 and 1988.

Daily Mladá fronta Dnes focused on Tošovský’s role as a late 1980s adviser to ex-chairman of the Czechoslovakian SBČS central bank, Svatopluk Potáč. Tošovský’s name hasn’t appeared on any StB agents list and he evidently never signed a pledge to cooperate with the secret police, but he was plainly putting together some kind of analysis with an economic character. No evidence whatsoever shows Tošovský was informing on particular people.

Tošovský, who now resides in Switzerland where he works for the Bank of International Settlements, stated he’d never collaborated with the “secret political police” and before becoming PM, informed Václav Havel and the National Security Institute about his SBČS activities. What should we understand from this? Does it mean Tošovský didn’t consider economic espionage to be a “political” police matter?

But are these revelations so dramatic? Their importance seems largely symbolic. There’s no longer a post-communist country in the region that’s not had a PM who aided the secret police. There’s Poland’s Józef Oleksy who even continued meeting with his KGB contact in the 1990s. There’s Hungary’s Péter Medgyessy who claims his 1980s counterespionage work even targeted the Soviets. And there’s Slovakia’s Vladimír Mečiar whose file is, er, missing.

Everyone knew Tošovský took up communist party membership in 1976. And everyone knew that under the old regime one didn’t get to work at Živnobanka’s London office–as Tošovský briefly did–unless one was obedient. But none of this disqualifies him as a prestigious monetary policy expert. As central bank governor, Tošovský closed problematic banks and wasn’t seen as a facilitator for financial criminals. On the contrary.

Assessing communist era experts’ assistance to the regime is complicated. In the late 1980s, Prognostic Institute and Economic Institute economists were required to file analyses with the Central Committee or PM’s office. Everyone knows who was working in these institutes—well-known 1990s government figures: Komárek, Dlouhý, Klaus, Tříska, Mládek etc. Ex-finance minister Ivan Kočárník was also a card-carrying communist and a finance ministry employee. He also had to file for his bosses when necessary.

Tošovský was picked out as a non-partisan PM. He served for six months. Until his elevation, he was one of the 1990s’ silent professionals. But when he returned to the central bank, some pretty controversial matters stuck to him.

It’s claimed that when he arrived back he closed himself in his office for weeks, listening to taped bank board sessions to find out what had been said about him. Conspiring against rivals, he wanted to stop President Havel from nominating Zdeněk Tůma as governor. But the oddest moment involving the much-changed Tošovský came two years ago when he refused to appear in London to defend the country against Nomura in the IPB arbitration.

Noted revelations ghost in from the past almost every day now. They most probably emerge from the interior ministry’s new masters. New insights can be healthy, but not if there are unknown political motivations or distortions behind them. Let’s note, for instance, that Tošovský is an arch enemy of Klaus.

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