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Interview with El País

English Pages, 25. 6. 2008

Irish people said NO to the Lisbon Treaty, how this result will affect the European Union?

The European Union must not be based on ignoring its own rules and principles. The Lisbon Treaty was democratically and convincingly rejected by Ireland, so it cannot come into force. Any attempt to neglect this fact and push the Treaty through by political pressure and manipulation will have disastrous effects for the EU. The EU should abandon discussing its future on the basis of rejected treaties. The result of a public vote – in any functioning democracy – would have the effect of making it clear that this is not the way to go.

Will the Czech Republic ratify the treaty? Do you think it shouldn't? Why?

The Lisbon Treaty was referred to the Constitutional Court by the Czech senate and the Court should scrutinize whether the Treaty complies with the Czech Republic’s constitution. Whether the Czech Republic ratifies the Treaty or not, depends on the decision of the Constitutional Court and on the vote of the Czech Parliament, but since the Treaty must be ratified unanimously by all the EU member states and one of them already rejected it, the end result of the ratification will be the same with or without the Czech vote. The Lisbon Treaty will not be ratified and will not come into force.

Is the Lisbon Treaty bad for Europe? And is it bad for the Czech Republic? Why?

The Lisbon Treaty is a move to a wrong direction. It is a treaty which includes the institutional innovations of the rejected Constitutional Treaty, typical for federal statehood. The Treaty deepens the democratic deficit in the EU, it makes the EU legal framework ever more complex and unclear, it transfers further powers from the member states to the Union level, it abolishes unanimous voting in many areas and it includes clauses which can change – and therefore extend – the EU competencies without the need for further ratification by the member states.

In what stage is the construction of the European Union? What is the next stage now, after the NO in Ireland? Stay with the Nice Treaty, make another one?

We need a new perception of the European integration process. It is necessary to explicitly refuse the post-Maastricht development towards an ever closer union. The resulting document must be written on a different basis and by different people.

What is needed is detached consideration about the correct administration of ‘public goods’ – which of them belong at the level of towns, regions and states and which at the level of the continent. And above all, which of them do not belong anywhere, because the issue is not public but ‘private good’, which must remain subject to the decision-making of free individuals.

You see yourself as an eurorealistic man, not a eurosceptic one. But it doesn't look like there are many real differences between these two definitions, aren't there?

These are two labels which are often used without being defined. I think that there are only two groups of politicians in the EU, the eurorealists and euronaivists. In this respect, I am definitely a eurorealist, which means that I do not always applaud everything what comes from the EU unquestionably and I do look at some aspects of integration in Europe critically. The euronaivists see scepticism in this approach because they are certain that the EU must be in a perpetual motion and that the integration process is automatically improved by every new initiative. That is also why they – wrongly – anticipated that Ireland must accept the Lisbon Treaty simply because it has allegedly benefited so much from its EU membership.

Do you think Czech Republic would be better off out of the EU?

There is no alternative to our membership in the European Union and I have always supported our accession and our EU membership. As Prime Minister of the country, I submitted our application for the EU membership in 1996 and as President of the country I signed the Accession Treaty in 2003. The Czech Republic has always been a part of Europe and has had strong geographical, economic, historical and cultural ties with the countries of the European continent. Again, however, this does not imply that it should ratify every EU treaty and approve every EU initiative.

Do you think it is possible to go on the entry of new countries, like Croatia?

I do think it is possible and I think the enlargement of the European Union must continue. The Lisbon Treaty was not the only possible way for the enlargement to continue, as it was argued. The enlargement can well continue without the Lisbon Treaty. The membership of Croatia can be adjusted institutionally in the Accession Treaty and further enlargement can be provided for by a new amending treaty specially designed for that. No new institutions at EU level, which are better suited to a federal rather than intergovernmental organization are needed in order for the new countries to enter.

Four years after the Czech Republic entry in the EU, what will be your balance so far? Czechs fell more or less Europeans now?

Czechs did not wait for their country’s accession into the European Union in order to acquire some feeling of being European or to be better-off. We should let people living on the European continent be Czechs, Poles, Italians, Danes, and not make Europeans of them. That is a flawed project. The difference between a Czech, a Pole, an Italian and a Dane (as random examples) and a European is akin to the difference between Czech, Polish, Danish languages and Esperanto. ‘Europeanness’ is Esperanto: an artificial language.

Do you think the country is ready to adopt the euro?

I do not think that adoption of the Euro in the Czech Republic is about setting a date. To get rid of our own currency is a very difficult decision, because there are parallel costs and benefits of doing it. I am convinced that it is not necessary to do it now.

Nowadays the Czech Parliament has as many members from the Government as from the opposition parties. How is this affecting the country? Would it be desirable to have a stronger Government?

The Czech government has a slight majority in the Parliament. The Czech electoral system provides for fragile coalition majorities and I think it would be desirable for the electoral system to change. It is not so much affecting the country itself but governmental and parliamentary politics has to be much more consensual than in the countries with the first past the post system, for example.

Are you happy with the agreement to install part of the US missiles shield in the Czech Republic?

I agree with the possible installation of the American radar facility on the Czech territory because I feel very strongly about the transatlantic relationship – as a complementarity to our EU engagement. Should there be a US missile defence component in my country, it would – I am sure – in the future constitute an instrinsic part of any future NATO missile defence security.

But opinion polls show that 70% of Czechs are against the shield, because it is more a threat than an opportunity for the country. Do you think it is possible to go ahead with the project with most people against it?

It will be the Czech Parliament, not the government or the President, who will be deciding.

How is the relationship with Russia and the new president?

The relations between the Czech Republic and Russia have reached a high degree of development in all spheres in the past few years. There certainly are issues on which our views differ but these – in no way – burden the positive nature of the relations. I have not met the new Russian President personally yet but I am confident that our contacts will be frequent, as it was the case with his predecessor.

You say climate change is a myth, but international organisations say the opposite? Why do you say that?

First, not all the international organisations and not all the scientists say the opposite. That is a myth.

My book on this topic will be published in Spain this year. I ask myself several questions. Let’s put them in the proper sequence:

• Is global warming a reality?

• If it is a reality, is it man-made?

• If it is a reality, is it a problem? Will the people in the world, and now I have to say “globally”, better-off or worse-off due to small increases of global temperature?

• If it is a reality, and if it is a problem, can man prevent it or stop it? Can any reasonable cost-benefit analysis justify anything – within the range of current proposals – to be done just now?

We can say yes – with some degree of probability – only to the first question. To the remaining three my answer is no.

I am saying that because I see the danger in the ideology of environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism. I am saying that because what is at stake in the debate about the so called fight against global warming is not the climate but our freedom and prosperity.

What do you think about renewable energy and nuclear energy? Which one do you prefer? Do you think the world needs more nuclear energy?

I prefer that the debate about energy is not dictated, that each state chooses its optimum energy mix. I am definitely in favor of nuclear energy and yes, the world needs less of energy sources which run on subsidies, and therefore it needs nuclear energy.

What should be done to end the food crisis. Whose's fault?

No easy and fast solutions exist in this respect. This is a complex issue related to a more long-term changes in economic policies. The food crisis is a result of excessive state and international institutions’ intervention and planning. It is a result of dictating the farmers what to plant, of giving preference to aid instead of to trade, of establishing useless trade barriers, and therefore artificially adjusting the supply and demand for different food commodities and products.

Cristina Galindo, El País, 25th June 2008


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