When you are head of state of the country about to hold the EU presidency, you might normally be looking forward to a taste of the international limelight, and a busier, more prestigious schedule than usual.
But Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, may be relishing his country’s assumption of EU leadership in January for very different reasons – as an opportunity to publicise views which other EU leaders will not enjoy hearing.
For Mr Klaus, a steely, bespectacled economist who came to sudden prominence after the Czechoslovak revolution against communism, is a vehement Eurosceptic. He believes the EU has echoes of the old Soviet bloc he used to live under.
And he is also an enthusiastic challenger of European and international policy on everything from climate change to relations with Russia.
Mr Klaus gave a foretaste of what the EU can expect on an official visit to Ireland in November. Upsetting his Irish hosts, he ostentatiously visited Declan Ganley, leader of the successful Irish No campaign against ratification of the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty.
Klaus compared Ganley and his supporters to dissidents in the old communist bloc – which angered many former Czech dissidents who suffered persecution and imprisonment for their views.
But Mr Klaus likes to think of his life as a kind of constant dissidence against what he sees as the erroneous views of the majority.
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