His country and his continent last century escaped fascism and communism, but former Czech President Vaclav Klaus argues that Europe desperately needs to be liberated again — this time from the clutches of globalists and multiculturalists, and from a European Union bent on imposing open borders and crushing the principle of sovereign rights.
Mr. Klaus, a longtime critic of the European Union who preached the virtues of national identity and secure borders long before the age of Brexit, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Tuesday that Europe needs a “fundamental, systemic” change along the lines of his own country’s Velvet Revolution nearly three decades ago.
But how such a monumental change comes about, he said, remains an open question. He shot down the idea that other countries could follow the example of the United Kingdom and simply vote to leave the EU. Efforts to link up anti-establishment, euroskeptic political movements in countries such as Hungary, Poland, Italy, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, France and Germany have shown little promise of success, he said.
“Europe needs a revolution, hopefully a Velvet Revolution as we did in the 1980s,” he said.
In the wide-ranging interview, he assailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other leaders who he believes are trying to erase the very concept of nation-states in favor of a borderless entity with politically enforced ethnic diversity.
“We are not interested in reforms. We are interested in fundamental, systemic change — not just partial, cosmetic changes,” said Mr. Klaus, a renowned economist who led the Czech Republic from 2003 to 2013.
Mr. Klaus also threw cold water on the notion that Eastern European nations should be fearful of Russia, said the election of Donald Trump was a “shock” that the U.S. political system needed and even derided the fledgling Laver Cup — a team tennis event pitting “Europe” against the world — as an example of the slow erosion of national sovereignty and the drive to eliminate distinctive European national identities.
He made the blunt comments on migration at a time of upheaval across the Continent driven largely by the arrival of huge numbers of refugees from Syria. The influx of migrants — and the friendly refugee policies adopted by major European powers such as Ms. Merkel’s Germany — have sparked a popular backlash across the region, giving new life to right-wing political parties pledging to protect national economies, borders and customs.
Just this week, for example, the Italian government passed a hard-line bill making it easier to deport some migrants and strip some of their citizenship. In Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrats recently turned in a strong showing in the country’s elections, swaying the national debate and shining a spotlight on citizens’ fears and anger over the social disruptions brought on by unchecked migration.
Even in Germany, Ms. Merkel faced her own political backlash after her migration policy expanded to the point that, at its peak, the country was accepting roughly 10,000 people each day.
Ms. Merkel viewed the crisis from the perspective of the EU as a whole, saying her nation had a duty to act in concert with the rest of Europe.
“I personally think illegal migration is one of the big challenges for the European Union, so I don’t believe we should act unilaterally,” she said over the summer, stating her opposition to calls from within her government to restrict the nation’s migration policies.
Mr. Klaus, a free-market economist who speaks highly of Hayek and Milton Friedman, and other critics say Ms. Merkel’s real goal — and the true intention of the EU — is to normalize migration from around the world to the point that individual countries become unrecognizable. He says EU leaders simply aren’t listening to the concerns of citizens in Sweden, Italy, Hungary and other nations deeply worried about that trend.
“This is a dictatorship of the old political elites of Europe, starting with Madame Merkel, Mr. Juncker, Mr. Macron,” he said. “This is a demand of the multiculturalists, politically correct European elites who really want to somehow mix the nations and to bring diversity” into each county by mandate.
“This is the culmination of the attempt of the European unification project,” he said.
The biggest setback to that so-called unification project was the 2016 British campaign to exit the EU, commonly known as Brexit. The monumental decision, which came the same year Mr. Trump won the U.S. presidential election after making illegal immigration a key campaign plank, shocked the world and represented a major crack in the armor of the EU.
But Mr. Klaus said Brexit can’t be repeated elsewhere across the continent, especially for a small landlocked nation like his.
“We don’t have the luxury of being an island,” he said. “We are in the heart of Europe. We are geometrically in the real center of Europe. All our neighbors are in the EU. So, I don’t share the dreams of many of my colleagues and friends that there would be something like a Czech” version of Brexit.
The former Czech leader also said that Mr. Trump has provided something of a blueprint for the world by articulating a “defense of the nation-state against the new ideologies and isms of the current era.” Specifically, he praised the president for pushing back hard against unlimited migration.
“He’s probably not a guy I would have coffee with every day or drink beer with him. This is not my style, my way of thinking,” he said. “But his policies, in my understanding, were needed for America, were needed for the world.”
On Russia, Mr. Klaus said it’s “slightly crazy” for Poland and other nations to fear military aggression from Moscow. Poland has asked for a permanent U.S. military base within their borders to counter Russia.
“The Poles still live in fear from Russia, which is slightly crazy but I have some understanding of that,” he said. “I’m not afraid of Russia … All those Baltic countries in NATO, they don’t need to be afraid of Russia.”
While dovish on Russia, Mr. Klaus was hard on the international tennis contest known as the Laver Cup. The tournament held its second annual competition in Chicago last week and pitted Team Europe against Team World, and the former Czech president said people should not underestimate the symbolism involved.
“I more or less ideologically oppose the Laver Cup,” he said. “The Laver Cup is a new cosmopolitan creation. … It’s created by the world cosmopolitans and, to my great regret, it’s a good example” of the multiculturalist push across Europe.