English Pages, 2. 6. 2009
Mr. President, Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the invitation and for giving me the opportunity to address this important gathering.
I have to start with admitting that this is my very first visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union. I am really glad to be here and to be here in two capacities, as President of the Czech Republic and as the highest representative of a country that currently holds the Presidency of the European Union. I came here in the year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, the 10th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO, and the 5th anniversary of its membership in the European Union. This outlines the general framework for my today’s remarks.
I accepted your invitation because I do appreciate the role the Western European Union has for 60 years played in the European integration process. After the tragedy of two 20th century’s World Wars, it was more than logical that Western Europe started to unite itself for the first time in this structure. During the Cold War the Western European Union was – along with the NATO – one of the defense pillars of the democratic world and became an integral part of the European security and defense architecture. That is not a small achievement.
The Western European Union has always been based on cooperation among states, on intergovernmentalism, and has never had the ambition to set up supranational bodies. As a consequence, there was no need to organize elections to your Parliamentary Assembly because the individual countries are represented here by the already elected members of their national parliaments. As such, your Assembly does not suffer from the democratic deficit and the lack of accountability that are so symptomatic for the functioning of many other European institutions.
Even now, the Western European Union and this Assembly contribute to the much needed cooperation among the European states in defense and security area. Of course, it is evident that even the strongest proclamations about common defense have only a limited value if they do not have the backing of adequate military capacities.
As a platform for the exchange of views among the parliamentary representatives who have democratic, legitimate mandate from the citizens of European countries and who are directly accountable to them, the WEU Parliamentary Assembly can, I believe, help in removing some of the existing barriers in the relations between the NATO and the European Union, and in informing the national parliaments about the European Security and Defense Policy. The program of your today’s and tomorrow’s sessions is a good example of that.
The world has not become a peaceful place and the threats are changing. The threats to peace and security which seemed remote and hardly imaginable some time ago are all very real now. Authoritative regimes did not fall together with the Iron curtain twenty years ago. They continue to survive in their worst imaginable form and constitute a serious security threat. On May 20, Iran test-fired an advanced surface-to-surface missile with a range of about 2,000 km. That is a distance between the north-western Iranian border and some of the EU member states’ capitals. Five days later, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea carried out a test of a nuclear explosive device and continues to undermine the stability on the Korean peninsula. Being in Paris, it is appropriate to say that the recent return of France to the NATO military structures has been a positive and much needed signal about the renewed French “commitment” to the Euro-Atlantic security.
The Czech Republic assumed the EU Presidency in a difficult moment of a very deep financial and economic crisis. We tried to coordinate the very diverse and sometimes rash reactions to the crisis originating at national levels, to keep them rational, to balance their short-term benefits with their long-term unpleasant costs.
From the first days of our presidency, we had to deal with the not yet definitely resolved Ukraine–Russia dispute about gas deliveries. We had to be actively involved in the efforts to calm down the conflict in Gaza. We succeeded in putting together an important EU-US summit, the first EU meeting with President Obama. We established a new promising initiative – the EU Eastern Partnership. During the month of May, I chaired the EU troika summits with Japan, China, Russia and the Republic of Korea, summits which did send positive signals that the EU is outward looking, interested in trust-building with its partners, and concerned about stability in the regions that are far away from the EU borders.
Under the slogan “Europe without barriers”, the Czech Presidency has been attempting to bring the European Union closer to a consistent implementation of its four basic freedoms: free movement of people, labor, goods and services. We are satisfied that the months of the Czech Presidency can not been characterized as an increase of protectionism and excessive regulation, which is a positive achievement in the moment of economic and financial crisis. The issue of enlargement and the emphasis on relations with the countries of Western Balkans has stayed on the EU agenda. Most importantly, however, the fundamental debate – partly reflected in the Lisbon Treaty ratification process – about the depth and forms of the European integration continues and I am convinced should continue. We do not want to block or stop this basically healthy and democratic exchange of views.
Mr. President, let me assure you that the Czech Republic does take its membership in all kinds of international organizations, especially in the European Union and in NATO, seriously. That is why we tend to think about them and discuss them. That is why we do not take everything for granted and do not accept everything unquestionably and uncritically. That is why we are concerned about the fact that the decision-making in the EU is becoming increasingly distant from the citizens, about the fact that various integration initiatives are not based on authentic interests of the member states and their citizens, but are rather prefabricated and imposed from above. There are many issues which should be open to discussion. The dictate of political correctness should not make such a discussion impossible.
I hope your Assembly will continue supporting free discussion and on this basis will keep playing a positive role in all the areas I just mentioned.
Václav Klaus, 56th Plenary Session of the Assembly of Western European Union, Palais d’Iéna, Paris, 2 June 2009.
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