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"I am not a eurosceptic. And I am definitely not a euronaivist. I am a eurorealist", says Vaclav Klaus, the former president and prime minister of the Czech Republic. Mr Klaus, a harsh critic of the current state of the European Union, came to Budapest to speak at the Danube Institute about his views on Europe and its crisis and took a few minutes to speak with Hungarian Globe.
You have been among the leading politicians of the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. How would you evaluate the achievements, the progress of your country in the last 25 years, compared to other Central European countries?
The Czech Republic, at that time Czechoslovakia, had a very good start. In the initial years, the Czech Republic was the most successful transition country. Then, I'm afraid, we slowly started to lose the advantage, especially after last year's elections. We have the feeling that we are slowly entering into a different regime than the one we built in the 1990s.
When we talk about the comparison with other Eastern European countries, we can mention Visegrad cooperation. Could it be stronger than it was in the last 20 years?
Could be... could be... One thing is to wish for something, and the other thing is to see the reality. I have been very much in favor of the cooperation of the Eastern European colleagues in all the European debates. But when I raised my hand and started to criticize something, they could have done the same. I am sorry to say that this was not the case in the last 25 years. There are nice speeches about Visegrad cooperation, but the reality - as demonstrated in the actual behavior in Brussels - is very much different. I know when you ask the leaders of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic whether Klaus is right or wrong, they would say I am wrong. But I am absolutely sure that I am right. And they are wrong.
The biggest challenge that Central and Eastern Europe has to face right now is the crisis in Ukraine. How do you see this crisis, what should be the response of Europe?
I don't have a suggestion, I must say. I would have had suggestions in November, December, January, maybe even in February, but now there is no way to solve the Ukrainian crisis in a positive way. Those who started the crisis, who provoked the situation in Ukraine, they should say that they are responsible for the current crisis. I'm afraid that the responsible people are in Western Europe and in America. They wanted to provoke a crisis between the West and Russia. Ukraine is just the unhappy, unlucky instrument in this crisis. I don't believe that the Ukrainian Maidan is a genuine people's revolution. I am not an expert on Ukraine, but I think the Ukrainian people have many reasons to be unhappy with their politicians. They didn't succeed in making a real transformation in Ukraine after the fall of communism. So people in Ukraine have many reasons to be critical of their politicians. I really don't think that the Maidan was a real, genuine people's uprising. It was provoked but not from Russia. Moscow is not happy with what has been going on in Ukraine. For Putin, it would have been much better after the successful Sochi Olympic Games to have several years of quiet life, which is not happening. I don't think Putin started the Ukrainian crisis, I'm afraid it was from here, from our part of the world.
Back to the Czech Republic. You founded the ODS, the Civic Democrats, the main right-wing party in your country. How do you see the country's current crisis of the right?
The ODS started to lose its position more or less when I left it. I'm afraid ODS is not in a very good position now. On the other hand, the new chairman of the party, Mr Fiala is a well respected professor of political science, two-time rector-president of the Masaryk University in Brno, the second biggest university in the Czech Republic. He is a very sophisticated intellectual who is a really very good writer and speaker. The question is whether he will succeed in transforming himself from an intellectual into a political leader. I wish very much that he will be able to do that, but it has not been done yet.
When it comes to elections in the Czech Republic, do you vote for a particular party, for the ODS?
It is well known in the Czech Republic that in the last two years I did not vote in any of the elections, from the parliamentary to the regional elections. Maybe, with Mr Fiala at the top of the party, I will come back to the ODS.
ODS used to be a real conservative-liberal party, there are not so many in Eastern Europe nowadays. How do you see the Eastern European political landscape these days?
In my country, we, Mr Václav Havel and me, had been fighting since the Velvet Revolution. Mr Havel really did not like political parties. He was an elitist politician who wanted the rule of the elites, not the rule of democracy and the political parties. We were fighting for years after 1989. For many years, we succeeded. Now, I must say, in the last couple of years we lost the game, at least in the Czech Republic. I'm afraid, in many other Central and Eastern European countries as well. Hungary with Mr Viktor Orbán is slightly different.
You are one of the most prominent eurosceptic politicians in the European Union. What do you think about the current European crisis and the way out of it?
This is not possible to say briefly. I am not a eurosceptic. I disagree with this term. I disagree with the other term "eurooptimism" too. It is nonsense. I suggest to talk about eurorealists and euronaivists. And I am definitely not a euronaivist. I live in Europe, my children, my grandchildren live here. I will not emigrate to Bolivia or Madagascar. I am interested in the successful development of the European continent. But I am afraid that the current politicians and the current European Union are doing everything against that. Europe is losing its position in the world. The respect for Europe has been diminishing. It is not an accident. It is a self-inflicted injury.
Is it the lack of vision?
There is a vision. But it is the wrong vision.