Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Klaus's views no longer interest European Union

CTK Daily News - 7 April 2005

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has found himself on the fringes of the European political scene with his commentaries on the European Union development, the Lidove noviny permanent correspondent in Brussels writes in the daily today.

If you ask anyone in Brussels concerned of their opinion on Klaus's commentaries about the European constitution or the European Union in general, they usually shrug and ask with a bored expression on their face "Again?," the author says.

While the Czech president's European vision fascinates the domestic media and provokes heated discussions among Czechs it only provokes lukewarm interest abroad.

There are two reasons for this. First is that Klaus's views on European integration are well known as he consistently repeats them and in addition, they do not have a visible impact on real policy, given his post.

The daily Financial Times, which is a sort of a barometer of what is at present important in Europe, prefers to publish a commentary on the European constitution by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski or informs about the Czech government's position on the liberalisation of the European economy. Both Kwasniewski and the Czech government are able, given their powers, to change the state of things rather than Klaus.

Klaus's press conference on the European constitution on Wednesday has not provoked any reactions in Brussels therefore, even not among the people who share similar sceptical views.

For instance, Charles Tannock, a MEP for the British Conservative Party said that although he respected Klaus as former leader of the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), it is more important for him what ODS leader Mirek Topolanek or ODS MEP Jan Zahradil think.

Former Czech European commissioner Pavel Telicka said that "the president's views did not attract much attention among his colleagues."

"They sometimes asked me what influence his views have on public opinion and voiced surprise at to what lengths Klaus goes refusing to listen to counter-arguments and that he is not informed," Telicka said.

Dana Spinant, the editor-in-chief of the respected European Voice magazine, has been closely following the Czech debate on the Europe constitution.

She said that it was an interesting fact that Klaus is the only head of state in Europe to lobby actively for the rejection of the text and to fight openly against the priority of his own government.

She believes that Klaus harms the Czech Republic by his arguments.

"I believe that his position is purely emotional. If he had really read the constitution and understood it, he would not have been able to say what he says, for instance, that the constitution changes the world or that the Czech Republic will lose its sovereignty.

She was surprised at the fact that in his crusade against the European constitution Klaus did not even hesitate to join such forces with such extreme and marginal figures as Anthony Coughlan and even wrote the introduction to his book which he presented on Wednesday.

University professor from Dublin and head of the Irish anti- European movement National Platform says, for instance, that Ireland stopped being a free state after joining the EU or that the EU internal market serves the French-German tandem for "colonisation" of central Europe, as Coughlan said in his interview for the weekly Respekt in 2002.

"The association with such untrustworthy persons harms Klaus. Coughlan's arguments are beyond the limits of democratic debate," Dana Spinant said.