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Integration or Unification of Europe: Notes for the Berlin Speech

English Pages, 20. 11. 2004

1. Europe, or to put it in a more proper way, the European Union, is – for most of us – our current main concern and preoccupation. It is so because it increasingly influences and determinates our lives, because it more and more constitutes the basic institutional framework for our existence, because it forces us to look more and more at what is going on in Brussels, and because it requires us to get rid of our old loyalties and to accept new ones. It is – at least for us – a radically new situation and this fact should not be underestimated.

2. I would like to say clearly at the very beginning that I am not in favour of the artificially accelerated unification of the continent, that I do not see it as a positive and necessary development, and that I do not believe it will increase freedom and prosperity in Europe. I have to claim as well that such a position of mine should be considered acceptable and legitimate, politically correct and “normal”. It is not the case now.

3. To avoid potential misunderstandings I would like to stress that I am in favour of the continuation of the evolutionary, which means natural and logical, European integration process, based on the removal of all unnecessary barriers to the free flow and movement of people and their ideas, of goods and services, and of money and capital, and based on the free and unrestricted competition of rules, policies, and legislation, of cultural patterns, of modes of behaviour among European countries.

4. I am, however, not in favour of unification, of homogenization, of harmonization and standardization of the European continent. I am not in favour of the bureaucratic institutionalization of the friendly and basically fruitful intergovernmental cooperation in Europe, I am not in favour of the idea of “ever-closer Union”. What I do suggest and advocate is not a negative programme. I am in favour of the best imaginable friendliness and cooperation of European countries. I am, however, not in favour of the elimination of countries (and states) and of their replacement by democratically unaccountable EU structures.

5. The issue of democratic accountability is crucial and I am deeply frustrated that it has been put aside and practically neglected by so many European politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and public intellectuals.

I see this omission or neglect mainly in attempts to suppress the role of nation-states and to internationalize public issues and public choice. It leads to the undermining of the democratic accountability, which exists – as history teaches us – only in nation-states. To decide at what level to organize public goods and where to make “public choices” has brought about – and will bring about – a permanent dispute in a free society and I have to insist that the heralded but empty EU doctrine of subsidiarity gives us, in this respect, no advice.

For many decisions the nation-state is too big and, therefore, we have municipalities, regions, provinces. For many decisions the nation-state is too small and – as a result – we have international organizations or international treaties at regional, continental and global levels. But one thing – I believe – cannot be disputed. For democracy the nation-state is just it, just right, just appropriate. The attempts to suppress the nation-state bring us to the brave new world of post-democracy, to the absence of democratic accountability, to the distortion of existing and “proved” checks and balances, to the substitution of technical and administrative thinking for politics. The old ways and mechanisms have passed the test of time and were the result of selective evolution. The new ones were created due to social engineering, due to unhumble constructivism. Their advocacy is based on what I call the ideology of Europeanism which has been creeping in without our explicit acceptance of it.

This problem is absolutely crucial for me. To make it clear, we should start with the old idea that the decision-making in human society is not a question of technical and organizational rationality or efficiency. The decision-making is a fundamental question of democracy. We have to accept that we are, currently, at a crossroad: either to turn left to the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley with its – from above-organized – happiness or to turn to the right to the rebirth of democracy along the lines of classical liberalism. I am convinced that we should look at it with so sharp and merciless eyes.

6. The Czech Republic takes its membership in the EU seriously. For us, the EU membership has had no alternative. We want to be good and reliable partners to our friends, colleagues and neighbors, to all 24 co-members. We do not want to be free-riders. We are aware of the benefits of EU integration and we consider benefits from our mere presence in a liberalized European space to be much more important than potential explicit financial benefits coming from the European institutions. We want to participate in the EU decision-making. We want to build free and prosperous Europe, but we do not need Europe as a superpower attempting to dominate or co-dominate the world.

7. As I said, our membership in the EU has no alternative but all other things do have alternatives. When I say that just now, two weeks after the signing and several weeks or months before ratifying the EU constitution I want to emphasize that I am convinced that this document has alternatives.

I hope that the forthcoming ratification process all over Europe will give us a chance to look at it closely, to discuss it openly and seriously. I find it important for all of us to realize that the recently signed constitution is not just another EU treaty. It is much more. It repeals all the existing EU/EC treaties and establishes quite a new EU – legally, constitutionally and politically different from the existing one. The new EU – based on its Constitution – will in fact become a new European State with all essential features of a state, in which the existing member countries will be reduced to regions or provinces and in which the formal agreement to subordinate to the superior entity will lead us to the abandonment of our national democracy, sovereignty and political independence.

8. I am glad that the Herbert Quandt Foundation conference in Berlin gives us an opportunity to discuss these issues and to have a real dialogue. Some of us here today were used to a monologue in the past and I assure you that we were not among those who were allowed to speak. We wish, therefore, a real dialogue about such important European issues would finally become possible.

Václav Klaus, Speech at European Forum, Berlin, November 20, 2004


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