Klaus defends Austria, attacks 'globalisation, feminism and the Internet'

The leader of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, is back in the news this morning - once again over controversial remarks about the European Union, feminism and the Internet! Speaking after talks with the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel at the weekend, Mr Klaus said the Czech government had been pursuing a shortsighted policy in refusing to maintain bilateral relations with its outcast neighbour. Alena Skodova has this report:

"Dialogue between the Czech Republic and Austria must exist, and I think it's shortsighted that the Czech Cabinet has rejected this idea," Mr Klaus said after a European Forum meeting in the Austrian town of Wachau. He added that Austria had become increasingly frustrated with its treatment by the European Union.

Mr Klaus said no elementary foundations of a democratic system had been abused in Austria - "if there are people who do not believe this, they should come and see for themselves," he stressed. Czech ministers have refused to meet their Austrian counterparts since February, when Austria's 14 EU colleagues froze bilateral relations in protest at the entry of the far-right Freedom Party into Chancellor Schuessel's cabinet.

In his speech at the European Forum in Wachau the former Czech prime minister said that Europe was now casting doubt on the independence of sovereign states, and that Austria was the most flagrant example of this policy. But, he stressed, the international community's treatment of Yugoslavia, the boycott of Britain at the time of the mad-cow disease scandal, or the EU's somewhat peculiar approach towards candidates for membership had one common denominator: namely, an attempt to apply outer views to the internal policies of individual countries.

Europe finds itself at a crossroads, said Mr Klaus. The main causes for this feeling of disorientation included the fall of communism, the opening of the former communist countries to the world and globalization, but - according to Mr Klaus - also feminism, which he said destabilised the classical model of the family, and the Internet, a global fetish which he said isolated people rather than brought them closer together.

"Small countries do not want to be shifted to the outskirts of Europe, they want to be an integral part of Europe," the Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel was quoted as saying by the APA agency. "We want to be heard - and not only listen when they talk about us," he said.