- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Europeans are living in a “dream world” of welfare and long vacations and have yet to realize “they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana.”

The Czech Republic is a candidate for European Union membership, but Mr. Klaus, who was elected president in February, made clear in an interview his distaste for the organization.

However, he conceded during a visit to Washington last week that “the political unification of Europe” is now in “an accelerated process … in all aspects and in all respects.”

Mr. Klaus said the movement toward 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 that “you cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state.”

Asked whether he could see the nation-state disappearing, Mr. Klaus replied, “That could well be the case, [but] it 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,” he said “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 budget.

EU auditors could vouch for only 10 percent of the $120 billion the bloc spent in 2002. It was the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole.

Europeans have not yet faced up to such “serious underlying issues,” Mr. Klaus said, because “they are still in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions and cradle-to-grave social security.”

The biggest challenge for the Czech Republic, Mr. Klaus said, is 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,” Mr. Klaus said.

“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.”

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