In an interview, former Czech President Václav Klaus predicts a decline in the Czech economy and expresses support for the decisions of the Czech government, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus.
“The restriction of freedom manifests itself in various ways. It is not possible to go out and have a beer or travel abroad,” said the former president.
“My generation is more humble towards the world, communism has taught us that, and, therefore, we accept restrictions with greater understanding,” commented Klaus on how he views government measures restricting the movement of people.
“The younger generation, on the other hand, is furious, but also too young to worry because young people always think they’ll have more time to catch up with their lives,” added the former president, who also commented on the situation in Hungary.
“In my opinion, the government has prepared the state for a crisis scenario, which, by the way, every cabinet should have ready,” Klaus said while praising the Hungarian government’s steps to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
“And if someone wants to judge Hungarian democracy based on the crisis plan, I consider it a great simplification. I do not believe that Prime Minister Orbán, who helped to overthrow communism in Hungary, seeks to restrict freedom. I know him too well for that,” said Klaus while defending the Hungarian prime minister after he faced misleading claims from a number of media outlets that he was using the crisis to strengthen his power.
Commenting on the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, according to Klaus, it is too early to make any definitive estimates.
“At first, I estimated that the economy will drop by several percentage points, then I thought it would be 15 to 20 percent, and now I think I’m not going to be even that optimistic,” he said.
The former president also assessed the behavior of Czech citizens during the state of emergency.
“I would say they behave rationally during the crisis,” stated Klaus.
“Besides, people go to work and thanks to that, the economy is still running,” said Klaus in praise for the behavior of Czechs.
Klaus also said he respects the steps of the government, which he believes is under pressure and makes decisions similar to those made by governments around the world. However, Klaus does not agree with the expenditure strategy to manage the coronavirus crisis as he would rather prefer spending cuts.
Klaus further mentioned the role of the EU in the coronavirus crisis.
“The European Union is suddenly criticized for its inaction and naked demonstration of its uselessness by people who used to love the EU.”
“I would consider it humiliating that a person of my kind, who heavily criticized the European Union before the coronavirus epidemic, would now criticize this institution. I would leave it to those who previously trusted the Union,” concluded Klaus.
Klaus served in various leadership positions in the Czech Republic, including as president between 2003 and 2013. He also served as the second and last prime minister of Czechoslovakia until its dissolution in 1992 and then later as prime minister of an independent Czech Republic from 1993 to 1998.