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LISBON TREATY Czech presidency

Klaus provokes walk-out in the Parliament

By Simon Taylor  -  19.02.2009 / 13:20 CET
Czech president says Lisbon treaty would worsen the EU's 'democratic deficit'.

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VÁCLAV KLAUS Strengthening the role of the European Parliament would 'alienate' citizens. Reuters
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Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe: “His address was controversial but frank and some of the reactions to it exaggerated. There were some kernels of truth in what President Klaus said about the distance between the voters and the EP to which MEPs should pay heed. Nonetheless, he fails to appreciate how EU democracy works, nor how the Lisbon Treaty would change it for the better.

“Václav Klaus's assertion that democracy and freedom is more highly valued by those who experienced communism is regrettably arrogant, as is his assertion that the current recession is due to the growth of what he called ‘a centrally controlled economy' in the EU. However, I have no doubt that many Czechs also disagree with him on these matters. Indeed, many public opinion surveys suggest that the views and wishes of most Czechs are better represented in the European Parliament than in the Presidential palace in Prague.”

Andrew Duff, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, said: “President Klaus should be thanked for being such an undiplomatic head of state. ...The astonishing thing, however, is that Mr Klaus seemed to blame the Union for not having an executive government which could be held properly to account by the European Parliament. Is he a closet federalist, after all?

“As things stand, Mr Klaus demeans the legitimacy of the European Parliament, but has no alternative democratic solution to offer. Does he think that a curious assemblage of 27 different national parliaments could possibly exercise the scrutiny, budgetary and legislative powers of the European Parliament with greater effect?

“The top priority of the EU is to see the Lisbon treaty ratified. When everyone else is drawing the conclusion that Europeans will be stronger together, it is sad to see the presiding head of state of the Union pulling in the opposite direction.”

Dany Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the Greens/EFA said: “Václav Klaus seems to have perfectly timed his visit to the European parliament to fall right in the middle of the Carnival festival. To mark the occasion, the Greens would like to nominate him for a special Carnival award in recognition of his efforts as provocateur of the year. His speech to this house was a perfect source of festive amusement.

“Mr Klaus outlined a completely twisted and manipulated view of the European reality. He has demonstrated a total ignorance of the historic importance of European integration. To seriously compare the decision-making process in the European Union with that of the Soviet Union indicates that the man has lost all touch with reality.”

Green MEP Milan Horáček said: “Just yesterday, the Czech Republic moved a step closer to ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, following the vote by the parliament for ratification. However, just after this democratic decision was taken, members of the Senate and the President regrettably announced their determination to delay the process.

“Václav Klaus is no stranger to political contrarianism. He continues to ignore all the scientific evidence by denying the reality of man-made climate change. He has also demonstrated disturbing economic naivety by comparing the global financial crisis to a ‘flu that takes a week if treated by the doctor and seven days if one does nothing'.

“His visit to the European parliament today was completely consistent with this fantastical approach to politics. His embarrassing speech underlined his divorce from political reality. This facile and boorish approach to politics does a disservice to the Czech government and more importantly the Czech citizens, who he is supposed to represent.”

German centre-right MEPs Markus Ferber and Werner Langen said: “It is true that [Klaus] raised the importance of subsidiarity. Not everything that affects people should automatically be decided in Europe. But to conclude that the member states should take a stronger lead is wrong. In some areas we need more Europe to assert ourselves in the world.” The existing democratic deficit in the EU cannot be removed by transferring competences back to member states. “The opposite is true. Only when the European Parliament has full co-decision rights – as the Lisbon treaty envisages – will there be transparency and democratic control,” the two MEPs said. “Europe's rapid response to the global financial crisis shows that the EU is strong when it acts quickly and is united. A Europe of nation states, as Klaus is demanding, would be going back to the 19th centruy and would crush Europe between the US, Asia and emerging countries.”

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