Supporters of European integration are just like communists of the Soviet-era', says Czech President

image of Vaclav Klaus

Czech President Vaclav Klaus today compared supporters of greater European Union integration to Soviet-era communists. As leader of the Czech Republic he holds the EU's rotating presidency, but that did not stop Mr Klaus kicking aside diplomatic niceties to tell EU lawmakers their parliament intervened too much in people's lives.

The controversial Lisbon Treaty, meant to streamline the bloc's creaking institutions, would only make things worse, he said. In his attack, delivered at the European Parliament in Brussels, he branded the EU an undemocratic and elitist project comparable to Soviet dictatorships that forbade free thought. He added:

'Here in the European Parliament there is only one single alternative, and those who dare think about a different option are labelled as enemies of European integration.'

His speech provoked boos from many lawmakers, some of whom walked out, but applause from a minority of nationalists.

Klaus has long been one of the most strident critics of the EU and is refusing to fly its flag over his official seat in Prague during the six-month Czech presidency. The Czech Republic holds the EU presidency for the first half of 2009 and his euroscepticism has irritated many in the EU even though his post is ceremonial.

Not so long ago in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that allowed no alternative and therefore no parliamentary opposition,' Klaus said, referring to the communist regimes that fell in 1989. Here (in the European Parliament) there is only one single alternative, and those who dare think about a different option are labelled as enemies of European integration.

Klaus said he rejected the 'uncriticisable assumption that there is only one possible and correct future of ... deeper and deeper integration'. He said that although he believed there was no alternative to EU membership for the Czechs, EU integration could take many different forms.

The outspoken president repeated his criticism of the Lisbon treaty on institutional reform and refused to say whether he would sign it. The Czech senate is still to vote on the treaty, which is expected to take place around April. He told a news conference.

"I am not really ready to answer - a chess player does not announce his next moves."

The Czech Republic is regarded as one of the last obstacles to the treaty taking effect. Ireland has rejected the charter in a national referendum and is to vote on it again this year. The treaty must be approved by all 27 member states to take effect.

Klaus also criticised the EU's response to the economic crisis and said: "The bloc needed less regulation, not more."

"We must say openly that the present economic system of the EU is a system of a suppressed market, a system of a permanently strengthening, centrally controlled economy.&

He said:

&Although history has more than clearly proven that this is a dead end, we find ourselves walking the same path once again&.

The president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, was not amused by the critical speech but added that democracy allowed for open opinions. He Said:

"Thank God we live in a European democracy in which everybody can express his or her own opinion,' In a parliament of the past I am sure you would not have been able to give this speech."

Taken from the Daily Mail 19th February 2009

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