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We Should Make a Different EU

English Pages, 30. 8. 2005

(Original version of the Article)

We were recently invited by the European Council to use the so called “reflection period” for presenting our views on the further course of European integration. We should accept this invitation and take it seriously. The acceleration of the process of European integration during the last two decades presents us with many good reasons to do so. This has been realized by means of a gradual, but very substantial and highly systematic undermining of the former intergovernmental nature of relations among European countries. We should not delude ourselves into thinking it has not happened.

These changes, which started in the 1980s, were connected primarily with the names of Spinelli and Delors (and those of Mitterrand and Kohl, who stood in the background and held their protective hands over it). This development – for an ordinary citizen hardly visible and understandable – was in the course of the last two decades often criticized which, however, always represented a minority, and in some countries only marginal, opinion. Thus these critical arguments were not taken into account by those who made the relevant decisions – by the political elites and their fellow-travellers. They have always considered themselves to be an infallible avant-garde, selected by history to lead the confused and disoriented masses of ordinary people who do not know what is good for them. The political elites knew and know very well that a shift of decision-making from state to supranational levels weakens the traditional democratic mechanisms (inseparable from the existence of the nation state) and, as a result, radically increases their own powers. This is why they favoured it in the past and continue to favour it now.

Occasional referenda in various EU countries do suggest that ordinary people see things somewhat differently. We should mention the very narrow and as a result unconvincing French yes-vote as well as the Danish no-vote to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the Irish rejection of the Treaty of Nice in 2001 and the Swedish no-vote to the Euro in 2003. As we know these signals were not taken seriously and nothing has changed until this year’s French and Dutch no-votes to the European constitution. This time it worked. The outcome of these two referenda led to the collapse of the very fragile house of cards which has being constructed in the EU all those 20 years without solid foundations and, above all, without the authentic participation of those who were supposed to live in it – the citizens of European countries. The house was not built for them. It was built for those who were supposed to profit from it, that is for the European political elites and their associates. Some of us were convinced that this discrepancy had to come – sooner or later – to light and the only question was when and why.

For some expectedly, for others unexpectedly, it was the European Constitution that caused the final collapse of this kind of integration project, which was not inevitable. Any other powerful “blow” to the European house of cards could have had the same effect. It could have been the parallel deepening and widening of EU which has been under way regardless of the Constitution (e.g. issues associated with the potential accession of countries like Turkey). It could have been the economic stagnation of the first years of the 21st century and the related unwillingness of some countries to continue with the past solidarity with their poorer neighbours. It could have also been the undigested, unnatural and therefore artificial multiculturalism (the basic entity of which is an ethnic or cultural group, not an individual citizen) and the following mass immigration which began to disrupt the historical coherence of European states. It could well have been any other exogenous impulse of a similar significance.

The two recent referenda meant that the aim to artificially create a single European nation (and culture) more or less came to an end. No new European convention, created administratively and dominated again by the Brussels bureaucracy, could bring it back to life. All EU countries will have to launch a real discussion about these matters and only after that it may be meaningful to hold further referenda. Only then it might be possible to start writing a new version of another “European” document.

We must first make it clear what kind of Europe we want. Using the understandable language, we have to say clearly what the future Europe should look like and what costs and benefits such a solution would have if put into practice. There are several inviolable principles we have to follow. It must not be about closing ourselves. It must not be about hindering spontaneous integration or globalization processes. No costly, freedom constraining uniformity, unification, harmonization and centralization should be part of it, but nor any obligatory “European” ideology (because the market for ideas must remain open for any future political developments on the left-right spectrum of individual European countries).

We will also have to decide whether it will be necessary to “constitutionalize” this new concept of Europe by an explicit document. Such a document would help us to define the barriers of where to go and thus prevent creeping unification and centralization of the European continent. These “creeping” processes were characteristic of the past period, when there was – on the one hand – an unconstrained activism of Europhiles (who were maximizing the effects of their own participation in the European structures), and – on the other hand – the passive carelessness of the majority of Europeans, who believed that none of these matters actually concerned them. Some of them probably even believed that what is “European” should be – in itself – better than what is “domestic”. Thus they tragically underestimated the democratic aspect of the problem.

There are undoubtedly some who think that no such document is necessary, that a little “anarchy” or more accurately, spontaneity of the natural order and of the invisible hand, cannot do any harm, and that a process not directly controlled or organized will contribute optimum inter-European relations better than what the politicians (no matter how well-intentioned they are) are able to do. That is why they think that no constitutionalism at the EU level is necessary.

I also believe in the strength of these spontaneous human interactions but at the same time I think that the constructivists of all colours will not leave us alone and that “their” constructivism (I refer to Messrs d’Estaing, Amato, Dehaene, and in the Czech Republic, Svoboda, Špidla and Zaorálek) needs to be countered by the constructivism of the European majority which doesn’t want empty Europeanness, which does not want massive centralization of the continent, which does not want further bureaucratization of their lives, which does not want the decisions to be made far from home (and therefore far from the elementary „supervision“ of those, who are deciding about us). This European majority does not want the unproductive “tailoring” of everything to one size and it does not wish further restrictions of human freedom. Therefore, sooner or later, a new constitutional document will have to be created.

It cannot be a document directed solely towards the future and accepting everything from the past as sacrosanct. It must be preceded by a truly critical assessment – which has not been attempted so far – of how European integration has progressed in the past fifty years. It cannot be based on the recognition of the status quo or on an eventual slowing down of further unification. It must start with abandoning of quite a lot of what has been done in the past two decades. It must be about finding a new balance between freedom and dirigisme, the private and public, the unregulated and regulated, the domestic and international, the neighbourly and supranational, the national and European, etc.

In any case, the idea of building a “State of Europe”, which has been constantly suggested to us in the past years, must be forgotten. Although some do not want to admit it (perhaps not even to themselves), this idea was the basic conceptual guide for the text of the rejected European constitution. As I have argued elsewhere, it was impossible to conceal it by replacing the word “federal” in the text of the Constitution by the word “communautaire”. There is, however, an additional problem there. Since we all are – I suppose – against the “national” nationalism, we should not start building “European” nationalism. We do not need any nationalism. We need a political system of liberal democracy which requires authentic citizenship connected with the natural loyalty of people towards their own nation and with an elementary feeling of national identity.

I am convinced that the task of our time is to delineate the future of European integration in a qualitatively different way from how it was done so far. We should create the Organization of European States (OES), whose members will be individual European states rather than the citizens of these states directly, as suggested by the European constitution. It will therefore be necessary to get rid of words such as “European Citizenship”. The membership in the OES must not be motivated by any ideological objectives, but only a common belief in the ability of the member states to act in some areas jointly, in the common interest and thus to reach mutually advantageous decisions. The mechanism of this decision-making must be consensual, at least in all important matters.

Everything else is secondary and, in many respects, follows from the primary delineation of the very essence of European integration. However, this delineation must be resolved right now. The opportunity that emerged after the double rejection of the existing course of European integration by the citizens of two founding countries, will not repeat itself any time soon.

Václav Klaus, Prague, 8. 8. 2005


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