Note: I was wondering when Vaclav Klaus would open his mouth about his government’s attempted alcohol ban. He seldom disappoints. SIG
Klaus criticises prohibition
20 September 2012
Prague, Sept 19 (CTK) – President Vaclav Klaus said the introduction of prohibition in the Czech Republic was an unreasonable and exaggerated solution to the spread of bootleg alcohol and it will be difficult to lift it, during his visit to Italy yesterday.
Klaus said the state failed in control of the alcohol market and added he considers the series of poisonings that have claimed more than 20 lives a big tragedy.
His words were dismissed by Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), who said the step was necessary and correct.
“I consider such muscle-flexing, simple solution as the introduction of what can be called prohibition by the health minister very unreasonable,” Klaus said.
“I believe that it will be very difficult to lift it,” he added.
Anyway, the case is “a fundamental failure of the state in control of the world of suspicious alcoholic drinks,” Klaus said.
Necas said the ban on sales of hard liquor, that has been in force since Friday evening, was necessary because of people’s health.
“If we had not done it and if even one person had died or fell ill, I would not haven wanted to be responsible for this,” he said.
Necas also said he is surprised that Klaus is reacting only six days after the sales of drinks with more than 20 percent of alcohol were banned.
He said specific responsibility is shouldered by specific constitutional officials who cannot afford “mere academic considerations.”
Kalousek reacted even more sharply. “As I see it, Mr President has not disappointed (us) from the point of view of the policy he has been pursuing in the past few weeks. I am deeply convinced that if the government did not take the step, Mr President would yesterday sharply criticised it for not having taken it and he would put on an equally serious face,” Kalousek said.
Klaus said the problem is also due to that the state imposed “absurdly high taxes” on alcohol in the past.
Klaus would not comment in detail on the proposal on a possible introduction of licences for alcohol producers.
In general terms, it is always worse if the state starts meddling in the problem, Klaus said.
The government is to decide on how to at least partially re- open the market yesterday.
Kalousek will submit a proposal for new stamps that would be used in drinks produced or imported only after the methanol scandal broke out.
New alcohol should get a laboratory-tested “birth certificate.”
Necas said the government is also in contact with the European Commission (EC) and that the respective directorate that is in charge of public health and consumer protection has not found any serious mistakes in the Czech government’s steps.
The first methanol-related death was reported on September 6. Twenty-three people have demonstrably died since then and tens of others have been in hospital. Some of the cured have gone blind.