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Czech President visits Brandeis

Published: October 7, 2005
Section: News


On Friday the 23rd at the Shapiro Center Theater Vaclav Klaus, current president and former prime minister of the Czech Republic, addressed a packed gathering of press, faculty, and students from colleges around the Boston area.

In his talk Why Europe Must Reject Centralization, Klaus spoke proudly of the Czech Republics advances in integrating itself into Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union but stressed the danger he felt was represented by the expanding power and influence of the European Union.

The EU came to dominate the lecture, as he explained how the advance of that organization has created what he called a democratic deficit in which the Brussels-based European Parliament destroyed national sovereignty by submitting directive after directive to national parliaments (including that of the Czech Republic), which they than had to implement.

This he viewed as an effort to make all European countries the same, characterizing his struggle against such efforts as the battle between liberalism (in the European sense) and homogenization. Klaus stressed that there was no such thing as a culturally or socially coherent Europe which could be formed into a single standard entity;

at most, he would prefer an Organization of European States based on the model of the Orgination of American States.

On economic matters, he denounced social-democratic welfare states as rigid even though many people like them and expressed his total opposition to all government subsidies and control over the economy, while also advocating a flat tax. He also expressed disbelief at the idea that countries compete with each other;

only corporations do that.

In the question-and-answer session that followed, Klaus denied that the rise of the EU was due to a desire to oppose the US, but was simply born out of the ideology of regulation and Europeanism. In an entity as large as Europe, he said, public participation in the governmental process was simply not possible;

the nation-state was just the right size for the right amount of democracy.

As for Turkeys desire to join the EU, he admitted that Turkey may enter into the European Union, but it could never be part of Europe. He denounced multiculturalism as a terrible mistake and said that the immigrants to Europe shouldnt be accommodated in any way. After all, he said, When you join a golf club, you cant change the club charter the next day.

In a brief interview granted to members of the press (including The Hoot) after his lecture, Klaus reiterated his opposition to a unified Europe and centralization of all types, but stressed that for a country to transition smoothly out of the Communist era they required a leader with three things: vision, a coherent plan to implement that vision, and the trust of the people. But, he added, that really needs a two-hour lecture to answer, and I really must be going.

In a brief biographical sketch delivered before the president himself spoke, International Business School Dean Peter Petri described how Klaus was born and educated in Prague, where he graduated from the University of Economics.

Klaus then rose to prominence after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, which toppled the Communist regime in a bloodless coup. He served as chairman of the democracy-promoting Civic Forum after Vaclav Havel resigned the chairmanship to become the Czech Republics first president in 1990.

Klaus later broke with the Civic Forum and founded the right-of-center Civic-Democratic Party (ODS). In 2003 he was elected president, where he remains to this day.

The event was hosted by the Brandeis International Business School as part of their Rosenberg Institute Distinguished Lecture series.