In his first interview since leaving office, former Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus urged for “a paradigm change” in European politics that shifts control to individual, sovereign nations and away from centralized power.

“Europe is in a very problematic situation,” he said. “Europe needs a radical political process that has to be done in individual countries, not in an apolitical continent.”

Klaus sat down with Heritage’s Jackie Anderson after finishing 10 years as president. His political involvement began in the 1989 Velvet Revolution when he worked as an economist to guide his country out of Communist rule. His statesmanship in the revolution led to serve both chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, which he co-founded, and prime minister, before completing two terms as the country’s president.

“[F]or me, it is part of my political career, which started in the moment of the fall of communism and lasted without interruption until last Thursday,” he said.

He said his political views, including skepticism about the European Union that led this British paper The Times to dub him “Margaret Thatcher of Central Europe,” were the result from living under both Nazi and Communist rule.

“I was born in the Nazi era but to live 40 years under communism is something very unique, very special. You lose a lot by that,” Klaus said. “On the other hand, I wouldn’t say that the years were just the lost years.”

“We are sensitive to many issues that some people who take freedom and democracy for granted are not able to understand,” he said. “That’s the reason for my very sharp criticism for the like of democracy in Europe these days.”