Czech President Wants Old EU Back | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 29.05.2005
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Czech President Wants Old EU Back

Anyone looking for euroskeptics in the Czech Republic needn't look far. Czech President Vaclav Klaus opposes the EU constitution, and hardly a day goes by in which he doesn't remind his countrymen and women of the fact.


Foresees a glowing future without the EU constitution

Vaclav Klaus, 63, an economist, prides himself on his title of professor. One may also refer to him as Mr. President, since he has held the position for over two years. But what he doesn't like is being called a euroskeptic.

"Some people are constantly using labels: euro-optimists, euro-pessimists or euroskeptics," Klaus told Deutsche Welle.

"Please do not do this. Those of us who are concerned with the future of Europe and what is happening on this continent, we reject being labeled as euroskeptics, because we are actually optimists. We are making a maximum effort to ensure that things turn out well for this continent and for all of us."

The royal we?

Vaclav Klaus likes saying "we" instead of "I," though who he means is not always entirely clear. But what is clear is that he likes speaking for the Czech people.

After all, other European countries seem to repeatedly equate the views of the Czech Republic as a whole with the personal opinion of Vaclav Klaus, although polls show that 51 percent of Czech people are in favor of the EU constitution.

For his part, the conservative has never made a secret of his fundamental rejection of the EU constitution. He opposes the political integration of Europe and has a different view of Europe, more like the European Community of the 1960s and 70s.

As far as Klaus is concerned, the EU charter is undemocratic and part of a socialist, anti-liberal mechanism that reduces the sovereignty of individual states, particularly of smaller countries. But all this, Klaus insists, is merely his own opinion. As president of the Czech Republic he is required to remain neutral.

Blick auf Prag

The Czech president's office is located in Prague Castle, overlooking the city

Vaclav Klaus's critics call him vain and arrogant, and they also accuse him of overstepping the boundaries of his position as president. The Czech president is meant to be little more than a figurehead. Nevertheless, Klaus has been trying to do everything in his power to influence the public and convince voters to oppose the EU constitution.

"I don't like it," said a 34-year-old woman from Prague. "I don't think that the president will be able to influence us. We all have our own view of the issue. When he says that we will lose our sovereignty, it's just a joke. The president has always had strange things to say. "

Unlikely partners

Indeed, Klaus is backed in his opposition to the EU charter by conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which he led for 11 years. On the other side of the political spectrum, the country's Communists also reject the EU constitution.

Both parties are influential in the Czech Republic: The ODS is the Czech party with the highest approval rating -- 30 percent -- and the Communists follow in second place. Though public cooperation between the two parties is unthinkable, both want the Czechs to reject the EU constitution, whether in a national referendum or a "no" vote in parliament.

"I predict a glowing future if the constitution does not get ratified," Klaus said. "I think that such documents are the last thing that the EU and its people need in order to lead happy and successful lives."

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