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E.U. head blasts U.S. economic strategy

Topolanek calls stimulus package a ‘road to hell’

BERLIN – The president of the European Union on Wednesday ripped the Obama administration’s economic policies, calling its massive deficit spending and bank bailouts “a road to hell.”

The comments by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, which holds the E.U.’s rotating presidency, startled some U.S. and European officials, who are preparing for President Barack Obama’s visit next month to several European cities, including Prague, the Czech capital.

In an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Topolanek abandoned diplomatic niceties and blasted Washington for approving a $787 billion economic stimulus package, which he said encouraged “protectionist” trade policies. He said the overall U.S. strategy for ending the recession would flood global markets with too many dollars and lead to bigger problems.

“All of these steps, these combinations and permanency, is the road to hell,” Topolanek said. “The United States did not take the right path.”

Topolanek’s critique came one day after his government was toppled by a no-confidence vote by opposition lawmakers in the Czech Parliament. Although he will remain prime minister for the time being, his shaky position at home raised questions about whether he could remain effective as the E.U. president until his country’s six-month term expires at the end of June.

“I think this was just an attempt to show he’s a force still to be reckoned with and not a walking-dead politician,” said Katinka Barysch, deputy director at the Center for European Reform, a London research organization. “For him to come out with his guns blazing does seem a bit odd.”