When he’s not busy lashing out at American economic policies, the free-falling Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek can always give free rein to the other side of his personality – mordant central European humour. Here’s an example from a press conference last week at a European Union summit in Brussels.
A reporter asked Topolanek, whose government collapsed on Monday and whose country’s EU presidency is turning into a long bad dream, why the six summit participants represented at the press conference were all men, with not a woman in sight. ‘Why, were you expecting Martians?’ the prime minister replied.
This did not go down at all well with women politicians in the European Parliament.
As Zita Gurmai, a Hungarian socialist who sits on the legislature’s committee on women’s rights and gender equality, put it: ‘If Mr Topolanek thinks it is a joke to describe half of Europe’s citizens as Martians, he should give up trying to be funny. It is bad enough that Europe, under his presidency, is not taking any extra actions to help women and men threatened by the recession, but to insult women as well is too much. I hope Mr Topolanek is embarrassed.’
Not much chance of that, one suspects.