EU is not Europe - Speech of Václav Klaus - Otmar Issings CFS Presidential Lecture on 12 March 2019

12 March 2019

On 12 March 2019, speaking at the invitation of CFS President Otmar Issing as part of the CFS Presidential Lecture series, former Czech President Václav Klaus held a speech entitled “EU is not Europe”. Expanding on the title, Klaus distinguished Europe as a “cultural and civilisational entity” from the EU as a “man-made construct”.

Klaus underlined that he was deeply influenced, as an economist, by his experience of the “irrational and inefficient” communist system in Czechoslovakia. This drove him to challenge the dominance of politics over “autonomous” economic decision-making after the fall of the Wall. He believes the “politicisation of economic life” can be observed again in the present era, this time arising “inside contemporary Western society”.

Klaus argued that an “important institutional change” is taking place in Europe, with power shifting “from elected representatives to permanent functionaries” and thus undermining national sovereinty. He highlighted the Lisbon and Maastricht treaties, which he believes have augmented centralised decision-making in Brussels at the cost of democratic processes. Klaus stated that the EU’s “unification” of economic parameters has created regional disparities, with southern European economies suffering in particular. 

Klaus went on to criticise five ideas that he believes are presented as “undisputable truths” in the context of the EU’s “Europeism”. The first is the “belief that environmental imperatives should be put before any economic considerations.” He similarly questioned the “global warming doctrine”, arguing that its proponents practice “non-economic thinking” and use it to pursue their own political agendas. Third, Klaus challenged the claim that we live in a knowledge and information economy, maintaining that the creative behaviour of free people is a fundamental source of economic growth. Fourth, Klaus took issue with the belief in a “common currency in a non-optimal currency area”. He sees it as evident that “the single currency in Europe needs either an explicit or an implicit transfer union”. Finally, Klaus emphasised the importance of the “process of creative destruction”, which he sets against the “idealistic” belief that economic fluctuations can be avoided through technocratic macroeconomic policies.

Concluding his speech, Klaus stated his conviction that Europe “needs to be liberated” so that the “ingenuity of free people” may once again bear fruit.

 

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