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Is Our Membership in the EU a Real Blessing?

English Pages, 21. 2. 2018

Many thanks for the invitation and for offering me the unique opportunity to present my views at your university. I feel really honoured by it. Hungary is geographically not far-away from the Czech Republic, Budapest is not far-away from Prague, I am speaking permanently all over the world, but I have never made a speech at the Corvinus University. I have to add – probably. I am not sure about it. I have a feeling that I delivered a lecture at the Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences, your predecessor, more than two decades ago but I was not able to find a proof of it. It was in the pre-internet era.

This time I came to Budapest to participate in the launching of the book (which I wrote together with my long-time colleague and collaborator Jiří Weigl)[1] about the recent mass migration to Europe. It got the Hungarian title “Népvándorlás”. The book which was written and originally published in the Czech language has already six foreign editions. Its Hungarian version was published by Századvég Foundation. Its formal launching took place yesterday in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Our ambition in writing the book was to contribute to the refutation of the false and misleading interpretations of the current European migration crisis. They have been promoted and propagated by the European political and intellectual elites with their progressivist, multicultural, politically correct views and attitudes. Their thinking is based on the untenable assumption that the mass migration is a positive social phenomenon. We strongly disagree. It is not a positive phenomenon, it destabilizes Europe, it endangers the peaceful and quiet developments in individual European countries.

The history teaches us that any mass migration creates considerable cultural, social and political conflicts, shocks and tensions. Its costs have always been much higher than its benefits. We see it in Europe these days. The costs connected with it are high and visible and – to be frank – we have not been able to find any benefits of it. It is evident that Europe doesn´t need any mass migration.

We are aware of the specifics of the Hungarian stance to the current mass migration which is the result of the courageous and in Europe singular and isolated position of Prime Minister Orbán. We hope his approach is in accordance with the views of the Hungarian public. We can assure you that his views are very much supported in the Czech Republic. They are – unsurprisingly – much more supported by the common people in my country than by our politicians, journalists and all kinds of “elites” or pseudoelites. I am glad to say that my own views are very similar to Prime Minister Orbán´s views.

We all know that the current mass migration didn´t fall from the heavens. There are plenty of arguments suggesting that the contemporary migration crisis is connected with the post-democratic character of the EU. That it is a by-product of the already long time existing European crisis, of the systemic errors and misconceptions of European policies, of the built-in defects of EU institutional arrangements, and of the ideological confusions and prejudices of European multicultural political elites.

Four years ago I made a speech here in Budapest at the Danube Institute. Its title was “Is there any reason to celebrate our first ten years in the EU?”[2] My answer to that question wasn´t entirely a positive one.

I remember that the speech was greeted with some doubts and reservations on the part of the audience. I was slightly surprised because to raise such a question was and is quite normal in the Czech Republic. I supposed that – in spite of all our historic differences, I mean the differences between the Czechs and the Hungarians – we have had and still have close or similar views on Europe and on the European integration process due to our communist experience. I expressed it in my speech by saying that “Our sufficiently long experience with communism sharpened our eyes when observing today’s EU”.

Nevertheless, my views on the EU are more critical than is the typical Hungarian position. I would like to be well understood. My criticism of the EU is not based on my views whether the EU financial transfers to Central European countries are sufficiently generous or not. We can very easily and happily live without them. We, and I am sure that Hungary as well, didn´t enter the EU because of them. My criticism is based on the fact that we are – due to our EU membership – once again masterminded from abroad and that our sovereignty is again considerably constrained. This is what we in the moment of the fall of communism didn´t expect.

I have repeatedly criticized European politicians, European intellectuals and European business people for not taking the evident problems connected with the current European integration process seriously enough. The substance of my polemics with the EU arrangements is based both on the criticism of the negative effects of the ambitions to economically centralize and excessively unify the European continent and on the criticism of the underestimation of the negative consequences of the undemocratic suppression of nation-states in favour of a pan-European governance.

As regards the first issue, the European overregulated economy, additionally constrained by a heavy load of social and environmental requirements, operating in a paternalistic welfare state atmosphere, cannot grow sufficiently rapidly. This burden is too heavy. If Europe wants to start growing again and be able to compete with other continents, if Europe wants to solve its many daunting social problems, it has to undertake a far-reaching transformation of its economic and social systems. Something similar to what we were obliged to do after the fall of communism.

As regards the second issue, the excessive and unnatural centralization, bureaucratization, harmonization, standardization and unification of the European continent has produced a deep, more and more visible democratic defect which can´t be removed without returning to the pre-Maastricht and pre-Lisbon era when the nation states played a much bigger role than now. It is the nation state which is the exclusive and irreplaceable playing field of democracy, and its only guarantor. The continent is not such a place. The whole planet certainly not either.

In the communist era our dream was to be free citizens, not just inhabitants of our non-free states. In connection with the mass migration, the issue of citizenship has become crucial again. Citizenship reflects that one belongs to a particular political community. I strongly disagreed with a well-known and often quoted President Obama´s statement when he famously (or perhaps rather infamously) announced that he is “a citizen of the world”. The European political elites similarly keep saying that they are citizens of Europe. Yet, it is impossible to be a citizen of Europe. Europe is not a political community. One can only be an inhabitant of Europe.

European political communities are the nation states. We are Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians. We speak Czech, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, not a European Esperanto. We don´t want to erase our borders and to get rid of the distinction between a citizen and a foreigner.

In any case, I want to live in Europe with less of the EU and with more of the nation-states. I see the main manifestations of the current unfavourable developments in the following fields:

1. I see them in a shift in power from elected politicians to unelected bureaucracy, from legislators to executives, from local and regional authorities to central governments, from national parliaments to Brussels (and Strasbourg), which together means from the citizen to the state.

2. I see them in a cumulative, exponentially growing regulation and control of all kinds of human activities. The regulatory and administrative state started to touch also the intimate, very personal spheres of our lives, not just the economic field as it used to be in the past.

3. I see and witness them in the replacement of freedom with rights. The ideology of rights – I call it human-rightism – has become the basis of a new model of society, of its institutional arrangements, of its guiding principles. It is, however a part of an everlasting illusion of all non-democrats to abolish politics.

4. I see them in the victorious crusade of environmentalism and of global warming alarmism.

5. Last but not least, I see them in the arrogancy of the exponents of feminism, genderism, multiculturalism and other similar postmodern “isms” and doctrines.

The currently prevailing EU ideology (I call it Europeism) systematically undermines the traditional, historically proven building blocks of the European society:

the nation state – by favouring regions to states and by attacking a nation state as the breeding ground for nationalism (and, therefore, for wars);

the family – by promoting genderism and feminism, by proposing all kinds of registered partnerships and same-sex marriages, by questioning the natural sexual orientation of men and women;

the man – by trying to bring into existence a new European man, homo bruxellarum, by artificially mixing citizens of European countries and – because it was not proved to be sufficient – by promoting and organizing the mass migration of individuals without European roots into Europe.

To return to the question raised in the title of my today´s speech, I see our EU membership a mixed blessing. I am very much in favour of the increased openness of the European society which was attained already in the first phase of the European integration process (in the era of the EEC and the EC).

I am, however, very critical to the increased bureaucratic centralization, to the permanently growing, human activity suppressing regulation and to the frustrating de-democratization which are connected with the second phase of the European integration process (with the era of the EU), with the European unification.

To sum it up, our membership in such an entity is a very mixed blessing. We should have the courage to say it loudly.

Václav Klaus, Speech at the Corvinus University of Budapest, February 22, 2018.

[1] Introductory remarks to the presentation of the book “Népvándorlás” (Mass migration) in Budapest, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, February 21, 2018.

[2] The Danube Institute, Budapest, May 5, 2014.


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