Excerpts from the meeting between Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and members of the Conference of the Presidents of the European Parliament, Friday 5 December 2008, Prague Castle. (Via Saormheain Eireann)
Daniel Cohn-Bendit MEP: I brought you a flag, which – as we heard – you have everywhere here at the Prague Castle. It is the flag of the European Union, so I will place it here in front of you.
It will be a tough Presidency...
Lisbon Treaty – I don’t care about your opinions on it. I want to know what you are going to do if the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approve it. Will you respect the will of the representatives of the people? You will have to sign it.
I want you to explain to me what is the level of your friendship with Mr Ganley from Ireland. How can you meet a person whose funding is unclear? You are not supposed to meet him in your function. It is a man whose finances come from problematic sources and he wants to use them to be funding his election campaign into the EP.
President Vaclav Klaus: I must say that nobody has talked to me in such a style and tone for the past 6 years. You are not on the barricades in Paris here. I thought that these manners ended for us 18 years ago but I see I was wrong. I would not dare to ask how the activities of the Greens are funded. If you are concerned about a rational discussion in this half an hour, which we have, please give the floor to someone else, Mr Chairman.
EU Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering: No, we have plenty of time. My colleague will continue, because anyone from the members of the EP can ask you whatever he likes. (to Cohn-Bendit:) Please continue.
President Vaclav Klaus: This is incredible. I have never experienced anything like this before.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit: Because you have not experienced me…
President Vaclav Klaus: This is incredible.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit: We have always had good talks with President Havel. And what will you tell me about your attitude towards the anti-discrimination law? I will gladly inform you about our funding.
Hans-Gert Pöttering: Brian Crowley, please.
Brian Crowley MEP: I am from Ireland and I am a member of a party in government. All his life my father fought against the British domination. Many of my relatives lost their lives. That is why I dare to say that the Irish wish for the Lisbon Treaty. It was an insult, Mr. President, to me and to the Irish people what you said during your state visit to Ireland. It was an insult that you met Declan Ganley, a man with no elected mandate. This man has not proven the sources from which his campaign was funded. I just want to inform you what the Irish felt. I wish you that you get the programme of your Presidency through and you will get through what European citizens want to see.
President Vaclav Klaus: Thank you for this experience which I gained from this meeting. I did not think anything like this is possible and have not experienced anything like this for the past 19 years. I thought it was a matter of the past that we live in democracy, but it is post-democracy, really, which rules the EU.
You mentioned the European values. The most important value is freedom and democracy. The citizens of the EU member states are concerned about freedom and democracy, above all. But democracy and freedom are loosing ground in the EU today. It is necessary to strive for them and fight for them.
I would like to emphasize, above all, what most citizens of the Czech Republic feel, that for us the EU membership has no alternative. It was me who submitted the EU application in the year 1996 and who signed the Accession treaty in 2003. But the arrangements within the EU have many alternatives. To take one of them as sacrosanct, untouchable, about which it is not possible to doubt or criticize it, is against the very nature of Europe.
As for the Lisbon Treaty, I would like to mention that it is not ratified in Germany either. The Constitutional Treaty, which was basically the same as the Lisbon Treaty, was refused in referendums in other two countries. If Mr. Crowley speaks of an insult to the Irish people, then I must say that the biggest insult to the Irish people is not to accept the result of the Irish referendum. In Ireland I met somebody who represents a majority in his country. You, Mr. Crowley, represent a view which is in minority in Ireland. That is a tangible result of the referendum.
Brian Crowley MEP: With all respect, Mr. President, you will not tell me what the Irish think. As an Irishman, I know it best.
President Vaclav Klaus: I do not speculate about what the Irish think. I state the only measurable data which were proved by the referendum.
In our country the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified because our parliament has not decided on it yet. It is not the President’s fault. Let’s wait for the decision of both Chambers of the Parliament, that is the current phase of the ratification process in which the President plays no role whatsoever. I cannot sign the Treaty today, it is not on my table, it is up to the parliament to decide about it now. My role will come after the eventual approval of the Treaty in the Parliament...
Hans-Gert Pöttering: … In the conclusion – and I want to leave this room in good terms – I would like to say that it is more than unacceptable, if you compare us, compare us with the Soviet Union. We are all deeply rooted in our countries and our constituencies. We are concerned about freedom and reconciliation in Europe, we are good willing, not naive.
President Vaclav Klaus: I did not compare you with the Soviet Union, I did not mention the word “Soviet Union”. I only said that I have not experienced such an atmosphere, such style of debate in the past 19 years in the Czech Republic, really.