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Czech warning

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   Nov. 24, 2003 at 6:52 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Europeans are living "in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions, and cradle-to-grave social security" and are yet to realize "they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana."

The Czech republic is a candidate for European Union membership, but in an interview with UPI, Klaus, who was elected president last February, made clear his distaste for the European Union. But he conceded "the political unification of Europe" is now in "an accelerated process...in all aspects and in all respects."

Klaus said the forward motion to a single political entity of 25 European nations "will not change until people start thinking and realizing they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana." The Czech president remains "convinced you cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state."

Asked whether he could see the nation-state disappearing "with untoward consequences," Klaus replied, "That could well be the case. Remains to be seen whether it will be the nominal disappearance or the real disappearance. We could see the scaffolding of a nation-state that would retain a president and similar institutions, but with virtually zero influence. That's my forecast. And it's not a reassuring vision of the future."

Last week, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg released a 400-page report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU's budget. EU's auditors could only vouch for 10 percent of the $120 billion the EU spent in 2002. It was also the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole.

Europeans are yet to face such "serious underlying issues," Klaus said, because "they are still in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions, and cradle-to-grave social security, and which obviates the imperative need to face" reality.

The biggest challenge for the Czech republic, Klaus said, is how to avoid falling into the trap of "a new form of collectivism." Asked whether he meant a new form of neo-Marxism, he said, "absolutely not, but I see other sectors endangering free societies."

"The enemies of free societies today are those who want to burden us down again with layer upon layer of regulations," president Klaus explained. "We had that in Communist times. But now if you look at all the new rules and regulations of EU membership, layered bureaucracy is staging a comeback." The EU's 30,000 bureaucrats have produced some 80,000 pages of regulations that the Czech republic and the other European applicants for EU membership would have to adopt.

Klaus dismissed anti-Americanism in Europe, which he sees as "more a reflection of American anti-Europeanism than European anti-Americanism.... Those who organize demonstrations in Europe are a tiny minority of the population. The majority doesn't care to demonstrate.

Reminded that al-Qaida after 9/11 said the terrorist organization had the right to kill four million Americans and that its targets are mainly American, along with Muslim states perceived to be close to the United States and Israel, Klaus said, "to look at the world in terms of terrorism and counter-terrorism gives you a distorted, one-dimensional view of reality. We should look at the larger picture.... Some of us used to look at the Yugoslavia crisis the same way and I used to say, 'Don't look at Europe through the Sarajevo glasses'."

If Americans regard a fusion of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction as the gravest threat facing the United States, how do Europeans assess their own fears about the future? "It is quite normal that the principal targets of al-Qaida are the U.S. and the U.K. as they have taken the lead to do something about those who launch the terrorist attacks. We understand the fragility and vulnerability of today's world and we know these attacks are coming close to us," Klaus said, "but as someone from a small country, I have a tendency to take domestic issues first and then look at the external ones.... Our problem is how to have a free society, free markets, how to achieve a democracy, how not to fall into the trap of a new form of collectivism."

The Czech republic is one of 33 nations in the coalition of the willing with boots on the ground in Iraq, but Klaus has been critical of the post-war transition to an Iraqi civilian government. "My concern was always what to do after the end of the war because I know something about the transition from a totalitarian regime to a free society," the Czech president told UPI. "This cannot be done by soldiers, or by foreigners. After we won back our freedom at the end of the cold war, there was a proposal to bring back Czechs who had escaped to Western countries and make up a new government of those people who had been living in free countries. Those who had lived the tragic communist experience said no the idea of foreigners organizing our transition back to freedom. We said we had to do this ourselves without outside influence dictating what we should do."

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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