September 26, 2010

Interview: Czech Republic President Talks History, Economics

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The Sun: How did you like your experience at Cornell, and what was your most memorable moment?

President Vaclav Klaus: I was here at a very unique moment in the history of my country [as it was still communist] and also at a time when the political and cultural situation in the United States was different than it is now. … So for us in the communist countries, a chance to spend a semester in an American university was a miracle. [It] was something that we’d been dreaming about. So for me to be here to study and to teach something and to meet people and other students was a great experience.

Sun: How do you think your education here has influenced your policy decisions?

V.K.: I raised [this question] to myself also, but it is difficult to say. I came here already as an adult. I was 28 years old, not a teenager and so I had [already developed] some strong views on many things. Nevertheless, I used the semester for sitting in Olin library and studying very carefully and I took many economic courses. It was a great experience for me, but to measure somewhat quantitatively how much my views were influenced by it is difficult.

Sun: Was there a particular economics class that either challenged or impacted your views?

V.K.: You know I was teaching here partly –– about centrally planned economies. So this was my expertise; on the other hand, I am [very interested] in macroeconomics. [I] wrote my Ph.D. before coming here on inflation, so I mostly [took] advanced, sophisticated macroeconomics courses.

Sun: You were strongly against the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, which sought to strengthen the E.U. Can you briefly explain your objections to it?

V.K.: The European Union has been undergoing a rather radical revolution, radical development, [in recent years] but [I’d like to] structure the issue first.  I would say that the original idea of the European Union in the 1950’s was based on the idea of intergovernmentalism, which means to increase the friendly relations and cooperation among the European countries –– with the basic entity or starting point being the country or state. The Lisbon Treaty –– and there have been similar, smaller, less important treaties in the last 20 years –– shifted this radically, to where [the E.U.] its a totally different concept, which we call supernationalism. In this new concept, the starting entity, the building block of the European Union is not a country … but it is a person, an individual, a citizen. I hesitate to accept I am a citizen of Europe, I still hope I am a citizen of the Czech Republic. Nevertheless the Lisbon Treaty is a radical move … I think it’s wrong and I’m absolutely sure that the main victim of that will be democracy.

Sun: So why did you ultimately choose to sign on to it?

V.K.: I was the last one in Europe who was blocking this treaty to coming into operation. Well, on the one hand, I am certainly sure that [if we had] a  really free referendum in many countries in Europe, it could easily have been that many Europeans would vote against it. But, in the political sphere, [among] the political class, and in the class of journalists, 95 percent were in favor of the Lisbon Treaty. You can’t win that battle very easily, especially being from a small country. Being from France or Great Britain, you could probably do it, but I did my best [from my country].

Sun: You’ve been a vocal critic of the global warming movement, could you briefly explain your position on global warming?

V.K.: I am not a critic of global warming; I am a critic of those people who believe in the idea of global warming.  That’s a difference. You know, I am not a climatologist … I am not fighting with the scientists whether they correctly measure global temperature or whether there are serious inaccuracies of what influences what. That’s not my fear. What I do criticize and what I consider unacceptable is the ideology behind global warming, which I call environmentalism or global warmingism. For me, it’s another way to mastermind people … [in my book] Blue Planet in Green Shackles, my answer is climate theories are okay, but freedom is endangered [by the movement.]

Original Author: Ben Gitlin