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Czech president: talk in Salt Lake City

... from Václav Klaus' website ...

The text mostly argues that it is difficult to accept environmentalism after communism. Yesterday, MF DNES published a new interview with the president.

Interview of Václav Klaus for MF DNES, the #1 Czech daily (9/29/2007)

Václav Klaus hasn't yet spoken on the high-level U.N. event dedicated to climate change and his speech had already ignited passions. The president was primarily accused of damaging his country's interests and critics said that he was only going to speak on behalf of himself. How did his talk in America ultimately go? What did the reactions look like? And what did he say in another speech about the reform of the U.N. and the Czech candidacy for the security council? The president answered MF DNES from New York.

Mr. President, the well-known and today even famous Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg published a new book on September 4th, "Cool It: Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming." He writes, among other things, that "the weather itself means less than the people's reactions to it." Do you agree with this sentence despite your criticism of environmentalists?

I haven't seen Mr Lomborg's new book yet. Many things he says are analogous to my assertions. Many other things are very different. On Tuesday, I gave an even longer talk about this topic in New York. When I was thinking what we, the people, should be doing in this situation, I offered this well-known sentence of the good soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hašek: "To chce klid." We tried to find a good translation and all of the translations we found were quite interesting: "Take it easy", "Calm down", "Don't panic", "Be normal". This is one of the important messages related to climate change that I wanted to be heard in the U.S.

But many people in our country keep on saying that you are just trying to provoke. That your speeches are pure ideology and that you are not using any scientific arguments.

Quite on the contrary. Many people in New York, including those in the U.N., understand very well what I say. But many of them have jumped on a bandwagon that drives them in one direction and makes them parrot sentences by others.

Does it mean that you didn't encounter a more serious criticism in America?

I became literally frustrated when I was walking through the corridors of the U.N. after the big dinner organized by the Secretary General and people from diverse countries were standing up, meeting me, and telling me: "Thank you so much for your speech."

But when you are watching what's going on from Prague or other places of Czechia, it doesn't look this way at all. Are you aware of it?

These people were explaining me that it was necessary for someone to say these things. I protested: you should say these things yourselves. The voices that I heard don't appear in the media because their sound only penetrates through the cloakrooms. However, I can't resist to ask: Doesn't anyone see that this is happening? Doesn't anyone else approach these questions rationally?

Who were the people who were praising you in New York?

For example the leader of a national delegation.

Tell me his name.

People hopefully understand that I don't have any right to reveal the name of a politician who has participated in a private conversation. But the person was explaining me that many people think the same thing as I do but they don't have the courage to say it loudly. There's nothing seriously wrong about two groups of scientists arguing with each other but the political worries, fear that one will be viewed as a renegade, it is a terribly sad and literally frustrating thing.

But the problem of global warming is discussed not only by the politicians but by the public, too. This week, BBC has published a poll. Among 22,000 people from 21 countries, 90% would welcome action to stop climate change. It seems that people are indeed worried about the current developments.

The outcome of such polls is the result of 1.5 decades of hysteria. People are constantly cheated and manipulated. Every day, they read these things in the media. The results of the polls can't be surprising.

Does it mean that you view the discussion about global warming to be completely untrustworthy and incorrect?

I have read an analysis in the August issue of the American monthly Science. If the U.S. decided to replace 10% of all of its energy by renewable sources i.e. by biofuels, the plants would have to be grown on 43% of arable land. That was one conclusion of a serious scientific calculation. I would thus encourage the organizers of polls to ask other questions, too. When you ask whether people want action against global warming, it is not shocking that everyone answers Yes. But if you asked whether sorrel or what are the names of all these plants should be grown on 43% of America, I am convinced that 99% of people would think that you have lost your mind.

This sowing has started even in Czechia.

These are side effects of this incorrectly moderated discussion whose dangers I try to emphasize all the time. One of the most ingenious economists of mankind, Frédéric Bastiat of France, wrote a beautiful essay 150 years ago. It was called "What is seen and what is not seen." Well, he points out and describes what can be seen and what can't be seen. His essay is extremely insightful and can be applied to the problem of global warming: everyone should read it. Your daily should be printing these ideas throughout the year. Sponsors would surely emerge somewhere if there are enough subjects to pay for various cosmetical products.

Has someone in New York sketched particular proposals to solve the problem?

Most presidents and prime ministers have presented speeches prepared by their ministries of environment. Speakers who were seriously thinking about the ideas and were writing their speech for one month just like I did were extremely rare. That's why the meeting was dominated by bureaucratic litanies that lacked ideas. If such a text has no author, it has no audience either. It is impossible to listen to such texts.

Der Kurier, an Austrian daily, wrote that it was indeed a sequence of dozens of very boring speeches and everyone was very lucky that there was a time restriction.

They're right. What should I add? My point is that even if one were a part of a minority, it is important for him to be heard. But such opinions should also be fairly reported.

What do you mean? Do you think that they are not reported fairly?

Even in your own paper, you have published several sentences on Tuesday that didn't discuss the key questions from the conference about the climate. For example, someone wrote that as soon as I was entering the building of the U.N., I hinted that I was entering enemies' territory. Well, I was giving no such hints. Someone also wrote that I had to wait in a long line to get my ID and they did it deliberately. Well, I was never waiting in a line. Similar reports are constantly trying to rotate diverse topics into the same undesirable direction.

On Wednesday night EDT, you gave another speech in New York during a gathering of the U.N. General Assembly. You argued that the world organization needs some reforms that would "more accurately reflect the current situation in the world rather than the situation that existed when the U.N. were founded." Did you mean that Japan, Germany, India, or Brazil should become permanent members of the security council?

For example. But I didn't mention the name of a particular country because this was not a point of my talk. But I am completely convinced that the U.N. security council in 2007 shouldn't look like the world in 1945. The world map has changed and it is inappropriate to deny it.

Did you talk with other presidents to convince them to support Czechia as a temporary member of the security council in 2008 and 2009?

I have talked to many. For example, I became befriended with Lula, the president of Brazil. He's ready to visit us. I told him that one Latin American country should be a permanent member of the security council. Surely it won't be Equador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia, or Bolivia: Brazil is the most likely one. I am convinced it is. During all the meetings, I was of course advertising our membership in the security council.

Some people on the old continent argue that the EU should be represented in the security council as one entity. What do you think about it?

I don't want to provoke Britons or Germans. Moreover, I am known as a critic of political unification. Excessive, extreme, and permanent unification shouldn't take place. On the other hand, if it has already occurred, and no one should pretend that it hasn't, I would agree that the EU should appear as one entity.

This answer of yours seems surprising. It is just a hyperbole, isn't it?

In that case, the European Union should also send one team to the world championship in soccer.

No one in Europe would probably like it.

And one team could also attend the olympic games. If someone doesn't like these ideas, I would kindly ask him to think about 1,001 other things that currently take place in Europe and that occurred during the June EU summit in Brussels. Otherwise, these people would seem to have inconsistent opinions.

Before you left for America, your Czech critics were saying that your speech about global warming could threaten our candidacy for the security council. But during your speech in the General Assembly, you were expressing the opinions of the government. I would even say that your talk reflected the opinions of the previous governments, too. Did you have a feeling that your speech about global warming has shocked other politicians and reduced our chances in the U.N.?

It's just a game of some of our Mr commentators and Mr Bursík. No, I have seen nothing of the sort.

Does it mean that your discussions indicated that we could beat Croatia and become members of the security council again?

I have had dozens of meetings there. If you look at my web page, you will see how such trips to the U.N. look like.

I have read it. Why are you telling me about that?

Because we - the Czech Republic - have organized a large banquet. It was interesting to see who participated at this event on Wednesday afternoon. And I don't mean just dozens of people who are the second secretaries of a delegation or something of that kind. These people came despite many competing receptions and negotiations of the General Assembly that took place at the same time. Despite these events, the Polish, Lithuanian, and Colombian president came to tell me that they supported our efforts in the U.N. I am also grateful for the friendly gesture that Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer expressed by his visit. This gesture has demonstrated his attitude to us.

Martin Bursík, the boss of the Green Party, said that you have "fortunately toned down" your speech and the expected negative consequences won't be as serious as previously feared. Did Mr Bursík know your speech in advance?

Well, be careful. These are just some wise cracks.

Does it mean that he was just bluffing in this case?

I have been playing with the speech for one month, analyzing individual words and details. But most of the text has been completed by the end of August. No essential modifications were made afterwards. I had no reasons to change it. I have no ideas to retract.

It makes it unclear how could Mr Bursík decide that you have toned down the speech.

The speech was probably different from his previous expectations. He has pre-emptively created an artificial world. At the end, he was surprised that the artificial world differed from the real one. This is a story about himself, not a story about me.

In your second speech, you argued that the U.N. must respect the opinions of its individual members regardless of their size: you advocated the equality of the countries. Is there a tendency in the U.N. that the opinions of smaller countries are being suppressed?

I would express it differently. During such a speech, you must address several topics. Your talk would otherwise be formless. Incidentally, I was one of the speakers who have respected the 15-minute limit: the talk took 13 minutes and 30 seconds. Ms secretary of the General Secretary thanked me for that. I was defending our candidacy for the security council and then I meditated about the essence of the concept of the U.N. And I was talking about the "global world government". Of course that during such occassions, one must look for a reconciliation of diverse attitudes which is the answer to your question. It was a more general debate about the problems of global leadership.

People have been saying for years that you travel all over the world and present your private opinions only despite your being a president of a country. Did you consult your second speech with the Czech government?

Of course I did. For example with the minister of foreign affairs. I have even borrowed a few little sentences constructed by his office.

So don't you expect that you are going to be criticized for the speech at home?

I insist that my talk in the U.N. General Assembly was closer to the attitude of the Czech government than any other speech of a Czech president during the recent years. Ten or fifteen years ago, you could listen to speeches that were much more distant from the position of the governments at that time.

Do I understand well that you have really noticed no complaints that you only represent your own opinions and not the government's opinions?

These statements are nonsensical and I would prefer to make no additional comments about them. Do you know what is completely fascinating?

No, I don't. What is it?

That almost everyone is making comments even before these speeches are being read. They can make comments even without reading these speeches. I would be very happy if these people were first reading my speeches, underlining ideas, adding waves, question marks, and exclamation marks into the text to indicate their agreement or disagreement. Once they do it, we could perhaps have something to talk about.

Viliam Buchert, Mladá fronta Dnes, 9/29/2007

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