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Klaus hits the spot

Posted by Richard Monday, November 15, 2004

Three cheers for the Canadian Financial Post, which has published a rumbustical article about the Czech president being "leery of EU constitution".

"Imagine if Canadian energy policy were set by a bunch of NAFTA bureaucrats, a NAFTA court of justice and an overarching NAFTA constitution and you would get an idea of what it might be like living under the new European Union constitution", it writes.

That is the way Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, puts it, and he thinks "the idea stinks". Although he is in favour of further European economic integration, especially if it frees up markets and gets rid of trade barriers (dream on), adopting a new constitution for the 25-member block is taking things one step too far.

Klaus, who along with his better-known political opponent Vaclav Havel was the driving force behind the Czech Republic's post-Communist rebirth, thinks a European constitution is a radical step that would eventually lead to the demise of individual European nation states.

It would, he argues, eliminate the legal autonomy of individual European countries, introduce a EU legal personality, and in terms of international law, transform the EU into a state.

He likens it to Canada, the United States and Mexico adopting a constitution under the North American Free Trade Agreement and allowing it to supersede the constitutions of the three countries.

"Can you imagine someone transferring the energy issue from Canada, the United States and Mexico to NAFTA authorities?" Mr. Klaus said in an interview in Toronto ahead of a speech arranged by the Fraser Institute.

Mr. Klaus said there was no alternative for a small country at the heart of Europe to become part of the European Union. The Czech Republic was one of 10 countries that joined the union on May 1 last year in the biggest enlargement in its history. "We are a small European country and that means we have to be part of the European integration process," he said.

The country spent years amending its legislation as a pre-condition for entry but the new constitution would push European hegemony into a further 40 areas of human activity, including energy, sports and culture, he said. The bureaucracy of Europe, already big enough, would continue to swell. He jokes about sports.

"I'm sure there will be a bureaucracy created to tell us that when you play basketball you must have either white or black or red or blue dress and when you play volleyball you can have green or yellow," he said.

The union would be better off concentrating on implementing an institutional framework that would preserve basic civil, political and economic liberties and freeing up markets and labour.

"Internal movement [of markets] needs deregulation and liberalization not centralisation... not standardisation," he said. "I want to have the best imaginable relations with my neighbours - Austrians, Germans Poles, Hugarians, Slovaks - but I still think I'm a citizen of the Czech Republic not a citizen of Europe."

"This constitution introduces citizenship of Europe and I'm quite happy with my Czech passport and I don't mind showing it at the Canadian border."