By CONSTANT BRAND
BRUSSELS (AP) — The president of the Czech Republic launched a scathing attack on the European Union Thursday, saying the bloc his country currently heads is undemocratic, elitist and reminiscent of Soviet-era Communist dictatorships .
Vaclav Klaus, who holds the rotating EU presidency, provoked boos from many lawmakers, some of whom walked out, but applause from nationalists and other anti-EU legislators.
Klaus is known for deep skepticism of the EU and has refused to fly the EU flag over his official seat in Prague during the Czech presidency, saying the country is not an EU province.
He said current EU practices smacked of communist times when the Soviet Union controlled much of eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic and when dissent or even discussions were not tolerated.
“Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition,” said Klaus. “We learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom.”
He said the 27-nation bloc should concentrate on offering prosperity to Europeans, rather than closer political union, and scrap a stalled EU reform treaty that Irish voters have already rejected.
Klaus said that questioning deeper integration has become an “uncriticizable assumption that there is only one possible and correct future of the European integration.”
“The enforcement of these notions … is unacceptable,” Klaus said. “Those who dare thinking about a different option are labeled as enemies.” Observers had been expecting Klaus to deliver a critical speech during his first and only visit to the EU chamber at a time when his country holds the EU limelight as chair of the 27-nation bloc.
“I have never experienced a situation where the presidency of the European Union … compares the EU with the Soviet Union,” said Belgian lawmaker Ivo Belet.