Reply to Matthias Roeser
1: It seems that we agree that the Czech-German issue is an emotional issue for Czechs and the Czech media. Yes, the press does respond like Pavlov's dogs to the very mention of the word "Neubauer."
Unfortunately, politicians must take people's emotions into account when making policy. It might be nicer if everyone was completely sensible, but they are not. Politicians can not change public opinion so drastically from a long-held emotional response to a measured logical debate in the space of a few years. If the Declaration has proven anything it is this.
Furthermore, knowing that politicians seek only one thing, it is not unreasonable to expect that rather than try to convince people to be loving, kind and open towards their "byvali spoluobcane", the politicians will use and abuse the emotional character of the issue in the upcoming electoral campaign. I'd like to be idealistic and think that this won't happen, but I am afraid that I lost that kind of idealism long ago.
2: Neubauer's nomination is certainly a decisive break in the Czech-German discussion, but I cannot see how it is positive as you claim. It can only make a bad situation worse as it inflames ethnic hatred.
The opportunity to see the unexpurgated Neubauer through the medium of the new Discussion Forum will only change Czech public opinion in the way that Sladek's nomination to and sitting on the Discussion Forum would change German public opinion.
On the practical side, what can the Czech Republic ever hope to gain from talking to a man who really won't be satisfied until the borders of Europe are put back to their 1938 condition? What is the incentive for Prague?
3: The fact that Neubauer has plenty of opportunity to spread his hate in Germany means little. He wants a forum from which to harass and destabilise the Czech Republic, and now he has one.
Please remember that Neubauer is practically unknown in Germany itself, but most in the Czech Republic knows him. The fact that he is rather boring for the Germans who have heard him is not germane. For Czechs, he can whip up excitement and fury like few others.
4: As regards the role of many Czech intellectuals as the spark for the Declaration, I again point you to my MPhil thesis, but I will say a few words here. Certain radicals in the Sudeten German lobby have been barking for years in an effort to talk directly to Prague to gain various concessions. Of course, during the Cold War, this was encouraged in some official quarters.
What's changed in recent years is the leadership in Prague. I can put it this way: there has been a knocking at the door for decades, but only recently has there been someone within the house who will answer that knocking. Still, most people in the house think that answering the door is a bad idea.
Between the governments, there was no problem, however. Long before the Declaration disaster started, the government in Bonn had for many years openly insisted that it supports the entry of the CR into NATO and the EU. This was stated time and time again since the birth of the new country and even before at many levels of the German government including Kohl himself. A resolution to the "Sudeten question", despite the repeated demands of Neubauer, was never put as a condition for entry by the German government. In addition, the two governments were co-operating in a number of areas and Czech economic relations with Germany were second to none.
I have heard criticism of this position from several quarters. My critics say that a Declaration was needed to eliminate problems between the Czech government and the Germans. No one, however, has ever been able to show what these "problems" actually were nor disprove the clear fact that relations between the two countries were excellent before 1995.
5: I agree with you that the Discussion Forum has no formal power, but I point out to you that it has incredible symbolic power. It is the symbolic power that touches the emotional quality of the Czech-German issue for most Czechs. It is the symbol of Neubauer on that Forum that will be used by Czech politicians across the political spectrum.
Try to imagine Sladek on that Forum for one minute. Do you really think the German reaction would be much different to the Czech reaction we are seeing now?