Klaus manifesto may signal plans for future EU run

Václav Klaus, photo: archive of the Czech Government

Former Czech president Václav Klaus has come out in defence of Europe’s traditional nation states, warning against efforts to transform the EU into a superstate. Reacting to an appeal by proponents of a much tighter Europe, Klaus issued his own manifesto entitled Democrats of Europe, Wake Up. In it, the former Czech head of state says that plans to take European integration to a new level would bring about the end of democracy on the continent. I discussed Mr Klaus’ declaration with Jakub Janda of the Prague-based European Values think tank.

Václav Klaus, photo: archive of the Czech Government
“First of all, Mr Klaus has joined a debate triggered by a manifesto, a book that came out last October. But the debate has not ceased, and will be going on ahead of an election to the European Parliament next May. But I think that both of these replies [by Václav Klaus and Europeans Now] are to some extent extremist, or peripheral. Václav Klaus is saying that the authors of the appeal are Marxists and comrades, and refer to the Marxist idea of unity. He is speaking from his point of view which is, as usual, conservative and anti-European in the sense that he is against further integration of Europe, which is what the authors of the essay advocate.”

Mr Klaus’s view has been backed mainly by his Czech collaborators but some European figures have also signed the manifesto such as British Euro-sceptic politician Nigel Farage, and some others. You said Mr Klaus’ reaction was peripheral but do you think it could gain momentum?

Photo: European Commission
“It might but I don’t think it will. As you said, the manifesto has been signed by Václav Klaus and 16 other people but only five of them are not Czech, and eight of them are his followers or co-workers. I would say Mr Klaus’ manifesto might echo in some parts of the political spectrum such as that represented by Nigel Farage. But it’s not a mainstream view.”

Václav Klaus recently decided against a comeback to Czech politics when he refused to head a group of Euro-sceptic politicians in the Czech Republic. But do you think his manifesto signals he might be a step towards his return to politics on the European level?

“Yes, it could. His manifesto and his strong public opinions might help him get heard in Czech public space where he needs to get elected from. So he might be aiming for a seat in the European Parliament. But some are sceptical about it because what would his future be as an MEP? That’s the question.

Jakub Janda, photo: Czech Television
“The key decision here would be which ballot Mr Klaus would be running on. He could perhaps run for the Civic Democrats, and would aspire to become the head of the conservative ECR fraction. That consists of the Czech Civic Democrats and the British Conservatives, along with some smaller parties. But would the British Conservatives want Václav Klaus as their leader in the European Parliament? I honestly don’t think so because, as we have discussed, he has shifted outside the heart of the debate right now.”