A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Saturday, 8 October 2011

Vaclav Klaus: The Greatest European Leader?

President Vaclav Klaus has his fair share of detractors

Spare a thought for the redoubtable Vaclav Klaus. He is no stranger to controversy: long used to being the only dissenting voice amongst world leaders of the subject of climate change, he was also one of two heads of state in Europe to openly criticise the notion of European union, until April last year, when Polish President and fellow Eurosceptic Lech Kaczinsky was killed in a plane crash. Now he stands alone. But that didn't stop him publishing Blue Planet in Green Shackles, and it won't stop him now.

Vaclav Klaus is an invaluable asset to the cause of national democracy: he has a CV that is more than impressive, including, among other things, the complete - and successful - restructuring of a nation's finances. Unlike most Eurosceptics who see the EU as heading in the same way, economically, as the USSR, Vaclav Klaus has been there: he saw the collapse of the Soviet Union first hand. It was he who was tasked with rebuilding the Czechoslovak economy after decades of Communist disintegration, and was elected Prime Minister in the Czech Republic's first free and fair elections in a generation. He has served as President since 2003.

Mr. Klaus has had a real and tangible effect on the economy of his country: this much can be seen walking the streets of Prague. His fears about the direction of the European Union are no less real and tangible. He has fought tirelessly against the notion of 'ever-closer union,' telling the Irish MEP Brian Crowley that he should accept the result of the Irish vote. At the low point in Klaus-EU relations, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the European Greens who once described all opponents of the EU as 'mentally weak,' stormed into Hradcany Castle - the ceremonial home of the Czech presidency - and replaced with the national flag with an EU one, ordering Mr. Klaus to ratify the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that 'he did not care about his opinions.'

Nonetheless, Mr. Klaus continues to express his Eurosceptic views: he is in Budapest today, at the 20th summit of the Visegrad Countries, where he said: 'Barroso is not coming up with any other proposal than if more and more Europe has brought about the current problems, let us try more and even more.' In other words, the EU cannot propose itself as the solution to problems it has caused. His Polish counterpart, Bronisław Komorowski, was quick to react, saying that European integration was the 'only way to get out of the crisis.' But, still, very few of Mr. Klaus's detractors can boast a CV half as impressive, or as extensive, as his, either in the fields of economics or politics. Like him or not, his opinions on the European Union are based on decades of expertise: they cannot be dismissed lightly.

What does Britain have to do for someone like that right now?

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