On a state visit to Spain this week Czech President Vaclav Klaus made his opposition to the European integration process a pivotal issue, saying that he hoped "a united Europe would never come to fruition" and telling his hosts that "good fences make good neighbours".
Surrounded by journalists in Madrid, the Czech President reiterated some of his traditional concerns about EU integration in defiance of the Czech government's strongly pro-integration stance, demanding that his reservations be given serious consideration. "Anyone who criticizes is automatically labelled the bad guy" Mr. Klaus complained, stressing that it was vital to make discussion on the EU constitution a legitimate issue:
"It is necessary for all of us in Europe to accept a free and open discussion about the European constitution as something legitimate, normal and necessary. That has not been the case until now. I am afraid that even to start criticising the text of the constitution is a priori considered as something negative, as something problematic, as something - simply - wrong."
Mr. Klaus maintains that the blueprint of the EU constitution drawn up by the former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing does not resolve Europe's real problems:
"My main problem is that the discussion about the European constitution is concentrated on several very narrow topics -topics that can be easily interpreted in quantitative terms - the double majority, what kind of majority, how many commissioners to have and so on. The discussion about the EU constitution is so superficial. It remains at that level, with those issues, whereas the real substance is in my opinion different."
And Mr Klaus returned to one of his favourite subjects, his strong opposition to the idea of a federal Europe. Borders between states are a guarantee of freedom for the individual and for mankind, Mr. Klaus said. He insisted that it was a fallacy to regard Europe as having "a collective identity" and that pushing for a federation of states would be a bad mistake.
"I definitely want a Europe where the building block is a nation, a state, not where it is an individual citizen - I am in favour of inter-governmentalism and not in favour of supra-nationalism."