Czech President VÃ¡clav Klaus is a stone cold Euroskeptic, and in today’s MF Dnes he has written an essay outlining his objections and concerns to Czech EU accession. My translation of the article follows. I translate, you decide:
We Must Not Get Lost In the European Union!
Not everyone may know that in a few days our country will cease to exist as an independent and sovereign entity. The Czech Republic will become part of the European Union. In last year’s referendum, a clear majority – more than half of all voters who took part – decided that our country, for fhe first time in its complicated and in many places oblique history, will voluntarily give up a fundamental part of its sovereignty and hand it over to a large supernational collective. With this, a completely new era in the development of the Czech state begins.
European integration, of which today’s European Union is a concrete product, is a long-term process. Its acceleration gained strong impetus after the end of the Second World War. The propagators of this project wanted to overcome the inauspicious inheritance of this war and secure a lasting peace on the European continent. Further motivation came from expected gains from the opening of economies of European states and the creation of a wide-ranging “common market,” which was to be founded on the free movement of people, goods, services and capital across its space.
The defense of cultural-civilization values of Western Europe undoubtedly played a meaningful role in its ambitions as well. In the second half of the twentieth century – right on the borders of our country – this touched on international groupings, which were situated under the control of the Soviet Union, which aspired to something completely different. After its disintegration at the end of 1989, Europe faced the question of how to continue. To close itself off – comfortably – in the borders of the time, or to invite these suddenly-free countries of the former Communist bloc?
The outcome of the incongruous developments of the past fifteen ears, in which loud calls from these countries for membership alternated with the less-vocal and resigned present, is today’s expansion of the European Union by ten new members.
EU expansion brings both sides a line of positives, but at the same time it presents -and again this is on both sides – not a few risks. The symbolic and psychological meaming of this step is probably the main positive for all involved. The era of a postwar Europe divided into two enemy blocs is definitively ended. The expansion of a liberalized trade area, and the chance for wide-ranging workforce mobility across the entire European continent is certainly also certainly advantageous.
But this is just one side of the coin. The union of markedly different countries could cause harm, and this mainly from; a unification process that is too fast, where individual countries are deprived of corresponding rules, politics and institutions; a process which does not take into account economic development, geographic position and national uniqueness; and which tries to create the impression that its so-called harmonization of the formal sides of integration will overcome real and existing differences. This is certainly a mistaken assumption.
This will, with a growing number of members, cause bigger and bigger problems and in a marked lack of democratic decision making in the EU (or the insensitive decisions of its unelected bureaucrats) , this could come to unnecessary misunderstandings and tensions between countries.
Even if it seems that on the night of April 30 into May 1 nothing immediately visible in our lives changes, it would be unwise and insincere to pretend – in our country, due to the unilateral pro-European orientation of our politicians and journalists has occurred – that participation in the movement of a great transnational community brings about quick improvements in our standard of living, and that at least in the short to middle term, entrance to the EU will be a burden in many ways. I have always tried to say this as loudly as I could and knew how to, and I feel it is honest to do so today as well. The defense of our position in Europe, the defense of our political, societal, economic and all other interests, which until now were in the hands of politicians, those from our own country, who know our country, live in our country and are answer to our voters in elections, will now be far more complicated.
The center of gravity for decisions in the interests of the Czech Republic will in many ways move abroad, and in a different way than thus far will depend on what kind of governmental representation we have. Whether our own picture of European structures will be taken to heart, or whether our honest efforts to take care of the interests of our citizens in heated international competition, in these – without regard to majestic proclamations – all countries look after their own goals and their own priorities, and defend the interests of their citizens.
We must do all we can not to be lost in the European Union, so that the unique thousand-year work of our forebears will not be pulverized and lost. Whether this will happen is up to each of us. Otherwise, it’s as it’s always been. I wish each of us sufficient energy, self-confidence and optimism. We will need it more than ever before.