English Pages, 29. 9. 2022
Many thanks for the invitation. This is my second trip to this beautiful town and its famous lake and my second participation in the School for Young Leaders organized by my long-time friend and colleague President Gjorge Ivanov.
I find the idea of organizing schools of this kind very positive and productive. Fifty-seven years ago, in 1965, I had a chance to attend a similar gathering in France, Annecy, in a place with an Alpine lake almost as beautiful as the one in Ohrid. I must confess that I intentionally used the adverb almost.
What is important at such gatherings are not just the lectures by distinguished professors, but also the unorganized debates among the participants in their so called “free time”. I suppose you have the same experience.
The title of the meeting in Annecy was “How to Overcome the Barriers to Development”, which is not such a major topic now as it used to be at that time. But the huge differences between developed and developing countries have not yet disappeared. Even among countries in Europe.
My summer school was in a totally different era. Both of us – we in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, and you in Yugoslavia, now Macedonia or perhaps Northern Macedonia – were citizens of the concept of citizenship denying communist system. It looked perhaps slightly more liberal in Yugoslavia than in other communist countries but it also was communism with all its problems, tragedies, irrationalities and inefficiencies. And with all its cruelties connected with the fatal suppression of human rights.
Communism is over. We shouldn’t repeat the mistake of fighting old, and, therefore, entirely misplaced and misdirected battles. We face different problems and different challenges now, which are, however, in their consequences closer to the old regime than superficial thinking suggests. The political system we live in now is very far from a classic political democracy based on parliamentary pluralism with ideologically well-defined political parties. We have been, due to it, already for many years marching deeper and deeper into the world of post-democracy. Similarly, the economic system we are experiencing these days is not a classic market economy but an extensively politically controlled and regulated mixed economy.
As a non-specialist on Macedonia or the whole of the Balkans, I ask myself what is the greatest challenge (or challenges) for this country and this region in the current era?
Looking at it from the outside, I see them in the following issues:
1. in the repeatedly promised, therefore, long-awaited but still unrealized membership of some of the countries of Western Balkans in the European Union;
2. in Macedonia’s position as a transit country in the current era of mass-migration;
3. in the historically difficult cohabitation of nations and nationalities in this region;
4. in a relatively new problem, in the impact and consequences of the current economic and energy crisis, which – for a country like Macedonia – is an imported, not home-made one.
Ad 1. I am aware of the mixed feelings of many Macedonians as regards the EU-membership, which can be only partly explained by the differences in age – young people are traditionally more EU-oriented that older ones. This is, however, not the main problem. The problem is the behaviour of those who are in charge of making decisions about it.
We have our own experience with this. Moreover, we have been EU-members since 2004, which means for already more than 18 years now. We have been waiting for membership for a much shorter time than you. Nevertheless, we also didn’t like being on the waiting list. We were not ready to accept the “teacher vs. student” position in our negotiations with the EU and we were deeply hurt by being openly and explicitly patronized by West Europeans. I guess you know something about it.
I can assure you that this feeling of ours still exists. The divide between old and new EU members is still being felt. We radically transformed our political system and our economy in the 1990s. They are not substantially different from Western Europe now. Our GDP per capita is higher than in Greece, Portugal and Spain and similar to Italy. That doesn’t seem to be sufficient. I can, therefore, more than understand the feelings of the Macedonians, especially when they see and hear the promises EU has recently made to Ukraine to speed up its accession talks with the EU.
We do have very mixed feelings about the effects of our EU membership, even though our expectations were not overly high. I was originally going to say “we still have very mixed feelings”, but the recent changes have not been positive in this respect. It is worse now. In the hypothetical cost-benefit equation regarding our membership, we experience a negative development. We are feeling more the costs than the benefits now.
After the fall of communism, we wanted to be a member of the European Economic Community. We wanted to friendly and extensively cooperate with other EU members, but we didn’t want to become just a small and irrelevant part of a tightly organized political union. We didn’t want to be a province. The developments in the EU have been increasingly characterized by political unification, whereas the economic aspects of the integration process – as a result of the repeated economic difficulties in the last decade – are seen by many of us as an increasing problem.
After the fall of communism, we radically decentralized all aspects of our political and economic system whereas the current European integration model is characterized by growing centralization, by bureaucratization of the whole European continent, by reliance on a paternalistic welfare state and by the ever-growing role of green ideology. Our transformation was based on the depolitization, deregulation, desubsidization and decentralization of our economy. To our great regret, thanks to the ideology of europeism, which asks for harmonization and unification, we are repoliticizing, reregulating, resubsidizing and recentralizing our economy and society. You should pay attention to these tendencies. You can see them yourselves in the Balkan EU member countries not far away from you.
Ad 2. In 2015, as a result of a well-known gesture by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and as a consequence of the growing impact of the ideology of multiculturalism, Europe became the target of a huge wave of mass migration from the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. Some European countries became the final destination of the migrants, some were “only” transit countries, which – if I am not wrong – is the case of Macedonia.
The behaviour of Western Europe and the EU on this issue was highly irrational. They were not able to deal with the fundamental difference between individual and mass migration (see my book “Europe All Inclusive: A Brief Guide to Understanding the Current Migration Crisis” which has been published already in eight languages) and tried to deal with mass migration by means of methods appropriate to individual migration.
The outcome is well-known – a huge number of non-European migrants in our countries, an increasing loss of coherence within European nation states, large islands of non-cooperative and hostile neighbourhoods in our regions and cities, a growing feeling of unsafety on the part of normal Europeans, and, last but not least, substantial financial costs.
The attempts by progressivist activists to destroy the nation-state, which had been the fundamental building block of a democratic European society for centuries, are becoming more and more successful. It helps the EU politicians to suppress the role of individual member states and centralize decision-making in Brussels without much resistance. The Macedonians should know that they will not enter a Europe of nation states, but a Europe of centralized decision-making at continental level. I suspect that you experienced something similar in the era of the Ottoman Empire but these memories are no longer existent. They are forgotten.
Speaking of migration, I find it irrational that my country – on behalf of the EU – sends policemen and custom officers to help you to block migrants coming from another EU member-state (located south of Macedonia).
Ad 3. We in Central Europe are aware of the difficult cohabitation of nations and nationalities in the Balkans, at least as compared to our region. (I haste to say that we don’t consider Ukraine to be part of Central Europe.) The Balkan problem has its historic causes, which are not easy to overcome. It is also the consequence of the unsuccessful split of Yugoslavia thirty years ago, but it is to no lesser extent – in my understanding – the result of the unfortunate interference of Western countries in the events in the region in the 1990s. It is politically incorrect in Europe to interpret it in this manner these days but I am convinced of it.
Be it as it may, this legacy has considerably impaired the image of the region in the commanding heights of the Western world. I tried to defend the Balkan countries at many international gatherings, but with a very limited success. It is difficult to change the aprioristic stances. To do so would be an important achievement.
Ad 4. Macedonia and the whole region are indirect victims of the chaos and self-destruction of the West, which started in the last decades and has radically accelerated in the last years. The energy crisis as well as the highly destructive inflation are not its causes, but its consequences. It is an imported crisis for your region. (This is true for my country as well.)
I speak very often about the self-destruction of the West (which is the title of a book published by my institute in August 2020). I see it in the excesses of multiculturalism, in genderism, in cosmopolitism and transnationalism, in human-rightism, in the victory of political correctness, in the absurdity of “cancel culture”, etc. I see it in the destructive Green Revolution, which got its momentum by the EU’s declaration of the so called Green Deal. This project – not the Ukraine war – is the true cause of the current energy crisis. Recent price shocks and supply chain destruction represent a nightmare for the citizens of the Czech Republic, as they look towards the approaching winter.
Irrational fiscal and monetary policies, which started after the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis, characterized by huge budget deficits and by zero interest rates and rapid money supply growth, have created a deep economic imbalance, a macroeconomic disequilibrium, which inevitably leads to inflation. In my country, we have the highest rate of inflation any living Czech has ever experienced. It reached the level of 17.5 % this summer.
I know that the Macedonian rate of inflation is close to this figure. Instead of accepting responsibility for inflation and instead of trying to get rid of it, our governments try to compensate it, which is a hopeless ambition and a wrong and misleading political project. We expect a further acceleration of inflation when all the energy prices will be “shifted” into consumer price indexes, which will happen soon.
Again, the current inflation is not a random phenomenon. It is not only the consequence of mistakes in fiscal and monetary policies. It is the logical outcome of a revolt against economics and its laws, it is a revolt against the economic way of thinking so fashionable in modern era. In English we sometimes hear the term “entitlement society”, but the German term “Anspruchgesellschaft” seems more understandable to me. It will not be changed by a better selection of ministers of finance or central bank governors. It is a deeper societal problem.
I should, at least briefly, mention the tragic Ukraine war. As I said two weeks ago at an important international forum in Poland: “the Ukrainians did not deserve it. Even the ordinary Russians did not deserve it. Nor did the countries in the neighbourhood, such as the Czech Republic”. We know that the war will have long-term consequences for all of us. The Czech Republic ranks first in the world in the number of Ukrainian refugees per capita. And we are highly dependent on Russian oil and gas.
The war didn’t fall from the sky. It has been long time in the making. The problem there did not start in February 2022. Already in 2014, I warned against the destabilization of Ukraine and against the growing confrontation between the West and Russia. To my great regret the confrontation has turned into a full-scale war with thousands of victims, with huge destruction of vast regions of the country and with fundamental changes in the international atmosphere. Negotiations between the West and Russia should have started a long time ago.
Many thanks for your attention, I tried to express – very briefly – my main views and my main concerns about our today’s world.
School for Young Leaders, Ohrid, Northern Macedonia, September 29, 2022
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