Czech leader attacks EU

The Czech Republic President said the EU was undemocratic, elitist and reminiscent of Soviet-era Communist dictatorships in an attack which provoked an angry response from EU legislators.

Vaclav Klaus, who holds the rotating EU presidency, also won applause from nationalists and other anti-EU legislators during his first address to the EU chamber. Mr Klaus is known for his deep scepticism of the EU and has refused to fly its flag over his official seat in Prague during the Czech presidency, saying the country is not an EU province.

He told the chamber that EU practices smacked of communist times when the Soviet Union controlled much of eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, and when dissent or even discussions were not tolerated.

"Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition," he said. "We learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom."

The 27-nation bloc should concentrate on offering prosperity to Europeans, rather than closer political union, and scrap a stalled EU reform treaty that Irish voters have already rejected. Questioning deeper integration had become an "uncriticisable assumption that there is only one possible and correct future of the European integration", Mr Klaus said.

"The enforcement of these notions... is unacceptable. Those who dare thinking about a different option are labelled as enemies." Observers had been expecting Mr Klaus to deliver a critical address to the chamber.

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