BrowseBiography
 Biography by letter : A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9
Search in :
Vaclav Klaus picture, image, poster
Vaclav Klaus

Date of birth : 1941-06-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Prague, Czech Republic
Nationality : Czech
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-23

Vaclav Klaus, born June 19, 1941 in Prague, Czech Republic is a Czech politician and the current Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

"We all have to strive to create such a state that would give its citizens not just freedom and opportunity but also a feeling of security and safety in their everyday lives."

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is a landlocked nation located in Central Europe. It consists of the regions of Bohemia and Moravia. To the north and west lie Germany; to the northeast, Poland; to the south, Austria; and to the east, Slovakia. Its total area is 78,700 sq km (30,386 sq. mi.). The population in mid-1992 was 10,314,000. The official language is Czech and the ethnic composition of the Republic is approximately 81% Czech, 13% Moravian, 3% Slovak and 3% Pole, Hungarian, German and Gypsy. Approximately 39% of Czech citizens are Roman Catholic, 39% have no religious affiliation, 3% are Greek or Russian Orthodox, 5% are Protestant religions, and 14% are various other religions including Evangelical Czech Brethren, Czech Hussite, and Judaism. The Czech Republic's main exports are machinery and transport equipment, iron and steel, sheet glass, and agricultural products such as wheat, rye and oats. The per capita GNP in 1991 was $2,250. The Czech unit of currency is the koruna, or crown.

Political Background

On January 1, 1993, the Czech and Slovak Republics became separate nations, ending a union that began in 1918. During the previous 1,000 years, the Czech crown lands of Bohemia and Moravia were ruled from Vienna, while Slovakia was ruled from Budapest. The idea of Czecho-Slovakism emerged after World War I, when leaders such as Tomas G. Masaryk and Edward Benes convinced the Western powers that Czechs and Slovaks should be joined in a new state after the collapse of the Habsburg empire. During the interwar period, Czechoslovakia proved to be the most successful and stable new democracy in Central Europe. Nevertheless, in 1938 the Western powers allowed for Czechoslovakia's dismemberment at the hand of the Nazis. The Nazis incorporated the Czech lands into the Third Reich, but installed an "independent" Slovak puppet state under Jozef Tiso, which lasted until the war's end. In 1948 the Communists seized power in a re-unified Czechoslovakia.

From 1948 until 1989, the politics and economics of Czechoslovakia were dominated by the Communist Party. The communists first met resistance to their rule in 1968, when Alexander Dubeck introduced the democratic reforms referred to as the "Prague Spring," which were subsequently crushed later that year by Soviet troops.

The events of 1968 inspired the organization of several underground reform movements. When the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe began to collapse in 1989, leaders of these reform movements, including the playwright Vaclav Havel, led protest rallies in Prague's Wenceslas Square that led to the downfall of the Communist Party and its leader, Milos Jakes, in November 1989.

Havel was rewarded for his leadership of the "Velvet Revolution" by being elected president of the nation by a unanimous vote of the National Assembly on December 29, 1989. Free elections were held in Czechoslovakia on June 8, 1990. New parties, such as the Civic Forum and its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence, won impressive victories. Progress in transforming the communist government, however, became undermined by inter-republic tensions. In November 1990 Czech, Slovak, and federal officials agreed to a new federal agreement that transferred considerable power to the republics. Despite some polls which demonstrated continued public support in both republics for maintaining the unity of the country, sharp differences over the future shape of the country persisted between the two republics and especially between their most prominent politicians.

Havel remained as the head of state until July 17, 1992, when he resigned following the Federal Parliament's rejection of his bid for re-election. Havel's fate and the future split of the nation had become a foregone conclusion after the June 1992 Republic elections when the Czech voters gave the center-right Civic Democratic Party, led by Vaclav Klaus, a plurality and Slovakians gave Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia a victory. Meciar favored an independent Slovakia and Klaus viewed the separation as an opportunity to expedite the Czech Republic's transformation to a market economy and become further integrated into the economic sphere of Western Europe.

After the elections, rounds of talks between Klaus and Meciar, who each became heads of government in their respective republics, quickly shifted in scope from forming a new federal government to dissolving the federation. On September 2, Klaus and Meciar agreed on the procedures for dividing Czechoslovakia into two states, with formal independence to be achieved by January 1, 1993. A series of agreements defining new Czech-Slovak relations after January 1, 1993, was signed in late October; these included agreements on a Czech-Slovak customs union and common currency zone. The agreements were swiftly approved by the republican legislatures. After two failed attempts, on November 25 the Federal Assembly finally adopted, by a narrow margin, legislation to dissolve the union and itself on January 1, 1993.

Personal Background

Vaclav Klaus was born in Prague on June 19, 1941. He is an economist who was educated in international economic relations and international trade at the University of Economics in Prague. He began his career at the Institute of the Academy of Sciences in the late 1960s and took advantage of the relative political openness at that time by studying economics in Italy and at Cornell University in New York state. It was at Cornell that he was attracted to Milton Friedman's monetarism policies, which remain a major influence on his economic practices.

The end of the Prague Spring also ended Klaus' academic career. He left the Academy in 1970 to become a staff member at the Czechoslovak State Bank. He was neither a dissident nor a supporter of the communist regime during his tenure at the State Bank, which lasted until 1987, but he managed to keep abreast of trends and theories in the fields of economics and political science. In 1988, he returned to the Academy of Sciences to head the department for macroeconomic policy in the newly formed Institute of Forecasting.

Klaus had relatively little involvement in the Velvet Revolution, particularly in relation to outspoken and charismatic dissidents like Havel, who led the opposition to the communist regime. However, in the aftermath of the revolution, Klaus was identified as the leader of a group of economists who favored a fast-track transformation to a market economy along Friedmanite lines. This status led to Klaus' appointment as the first minister of finance in the post-communist era.

Rise to Power

While Havel immersed himself in the duties of the presidency, Klaus became active in the affairs of Civic Forum, the broad-based coalition party which grew out of the Velvet Revolution. As a prominent dissident, Havel was the most recognizable figure in the party, but the majority of the party members, like Klaus, had only become active in political affairs during the November 1989 revolution. Klaus' stature among party members grew quickly because of his knowledge of free market economics. Subsequently, he was elected chairman of the Civic Forum movement in October 1990.

Because Civic Forum served as an umbrella for a diverse cross-section of interests, its break-up was inevitable as the needs of the nation became clearer. Klaus was the leading advocate for streamlining the activities of the social welfare state and making a rapid transformation to the market system. He and several like-minded adherents to this approach formed the Civic Democratic party in February 1991, with Klaus being elected chairman at the founding congress in April 1991. Later that year, on October 3, 1991, Klaus was appointed deputy prime minister of the Federal Republic.

Klaus' ascendancy to the leadership of the Czech Republic was completed in June 1992, when the Civic Democratic Party won a plurality of seats in the Republic elections. Because of the inevitable split in the Czech and Slovak Federation, Klaus, as prime minister of the Czech Republic, became the de facto leader of the Czech people, rather than Havel, who had been president of the federation.

Leadership

Klaus is recognized as the Czech Republic's leading authority on transforming the nation's communist command economy to a capitalist free market economy. He has a will to lead, some observers would say to dominate, and has a strong work ethic and discipline. Klaus exemplifies the tradition of the "Czech engineer," someone who is firmly grounded in society with an air of fairness and purposefulness, without being overtly sensitive. He is more interested in the functions of society than the traditional Czech intellectual, exemplified by Havel, who is more concerned with the social aspects of society.

Havel was elected to the position of president of the Czech Republic by a vote of the Czech National Council on January 26, 1993. However, the prime minister has the leadership power in the Czech Republic, unlike its predecessor, the Czech and Slovak Federation, in which the president was recognized as the nation's leader.

Domestic Policy

The new Czech Republic will likely have an easier time adapting to independence than its counterpart, Slovakia. its economic prospects are promising, because of the strong public consensus for privatization and market reforms. Its short-term economic growth may be accelerated, since it is now free of providing subsidies to lesser developed Slovakia. The economic growth rate is expected to range from 1 to 3% in 1993, with an unemployment rate remaining below 5%.

The prospects of political stability in the Czech Republic are also promising. There appears to be a strong consensus to continue on a democratic course. It is true that right-wing parties have gained strength recently and the left, including the communists, remain a viable force in the parliament. But centrist politicians dominate the nation's leadership posts. There is a tradition of ethnic and religious tolerance, which many observers believe will guard against the ethnic tensions and violence that have plagued other European nations.

Foreign Policy

The overriding goal of Czech foreign policy is to become fully integrated into the economic and military affairs of the West, including membership in the EC and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Czech and Slovak Federation signed an association agreement with the EC in December 1991, which will likely be extended to the new Czech Republic. NATO officials have indicated that the split of the two republics should not present any barriers to joining NATO in the future and plan to establish a program of intensive cooperation with both new armies. The election of Havel as Czech president should reassure foreign leaders that the new Czech Republic will uphold previous agreements.

A more immediate concern to the Czech Republic is its relations with Slovakia. Bilateral treaties and agreements that were formalized during the transition period of late 1992 have laid the foundation for constructive relations between the two countries. Strong economic cooperation is expected since trading patterns were established prior to the split. A customs union was formed that will allow a free exchange of goods and services. The military was divided on a two-to-one ratio, Czech to Slovak. The two nations signed a defense cooperation treaty, but Prime Minister Klaus has rejected the idea of a defense union.


View the full website biography of Vaclav Klaus.
Browsebiography computer mode