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The president of the Czech Republic fears the European Union is “weakening” free markets and democracy by imposing massive regulations throughout the 27 countries of the alliance.

Vaclav Klaus, on a recent visit to Washington, compared the “undergoing weakening of democracy and free markets” in the EU to the “authoritative, oppressive and nonfunctioning” communist regime that gripped Czechoslovakia for four decades.

He also blamed government intervention for the financial crisis that hit Europe in the economic fallout from the collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2008.

Mr. Klaus, a conservative economist, noted that he reluctantly signed a treaty last year that allocated greater power to bureaucrats in Brussels, the headquarters of the EU. His signature to the so-called Lisbon Treaty followed a ruling by the Czech Constitutional Court that said the treaty did not violate the Czech Constitution.

At the time, he warned that under the treaty “the Czech Republic will cease to be a sovereign state.”

He was equally forceful in remarks in Washington last week at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, denouncing “harmonization,” the Eurocrat word for imposing the same policies throughout the union.

“For many of us in Europe — and especially for those who spent most of their lives in a very authoritative, oppressive and nonfunctioning communist regime — the undergoing weakening of democracy and free markets on the European continent is an undesirable development,” he said.

“We witness a gradual shift from liberalizing and removing all kinds of barriers towards a massive introduction of regulation and harmonization from above, towards the ever-expanding, overgenerous welfare system, towards the new and more sophisticated forms of protectionism, towards the continuously growing legal and regulatory burdens on business, towards the markets undermining quasi-competition policies, etc.

“All of that weakens and restrains freedom, democracy and democratic accountability, not to speak about economic efficiency, entrepreneurship and competitiveness.”

Mr. Klaus, a prime minister and finance minister in the 1990s, also defended capitalism, calling the financial crisis a failure of government, not the free market.

“It is necessary to warn against the attempts to once again blame problems in the market as problems of the market,” he said.

“The current crisis was not the result of a market failure or of any inherent deficiency of capitalism. It was a government failure. … Government actions and interventions caused, prolonged, and dramatically worsened the crisis.”


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the U.S. partnership with the European Union this week, after holding talks in Washington with the EU’s new foreign minister, Catherine Ashton.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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