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Address of the President of the Czech Republic delivered on the Eve of the Accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union

English Pages, 30. 4. 2004

Dear guests, my fellow-citizens,

In a few hours we shall become witnesses of, as well as participants to, one of the most important events in the history of the Czech state. Speaking about history I mean those one thousand years of our existence, not only the relatively short period of our modern statehood since January 1st, 1993. Tonight at midnight the Czech Republic will seize to exit as an independent state and will become a part of the European Union.

This event is not unexpected for none of us. It has been planned for a long time and it had several preliminary stages. Already in November 1989 hundreds of thousands of us – almost subconsciously and thus completely spontaneously – called a slogan „Back to Europe“, a slogan that became one of the most important symbols of our further development. It became a challenge to
- overcome the isolation of our country that lasted half a century,
- overcome our unnatural and one sided orientation towards the east,
- end our disrespect for the basic values of the political and economic systems functioning successfully west of us,
- end our non-involvement in the activities of those European institutions that had been founded during our absence from the democratic development of the free part of the European continent between February 1948 and November 1989 and that shaped the face of today´s Europe.

We have accepted this challenge and the result is our today´s accession to the European Union. In this respect this day is the end of the last one and a half decade. It was made possible by cutting the barbed wire on our borders in the last days of November 1989. It was connected with the birth and gradual maturing of our democracy and with the implementation of the values of free society in our country. It was prepared by our radical transformation measures, first of all by opened borders enabling not only free movement of people but also of ideas followed very soon by the liberalization of trade (that allowed the free movement of goods and services over the borders) and, last but not least, by the liberalization of financial transactions which opened our country and our economy to Europe and to the world. It was repeatedly confirmed by our membership in many regional, European and global institutions – in the North Atlantic Alliance, in the Council of Europe, in the International Monetary Fund, in the Organisation for European Security and Cooperation, in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Central European Free Trade Zone, in Visegrád group and in many others. It was accelerated by our association to the Union in October 1993 and by our application for the full membership in January 1996. And it was based on our domestic activity linked to the radical reconstruction of our political, economic and social system. The uneasy last years marked by massive transposition of the European Union legal system were final culmination of this process.

As it is usual in the lives of individuals as well as of the whole human society, we will gain something today but at the same time we will lose something. We never get anything for free. We should do everything to make sure the proportion of gains and losses is favourable for us, which certainly is not and will not be automatic. It will depend on us. The terms and rules relevant today for all European Union member states as well as the specific conditions we ourselves have negotiated prior to our accession (and there is no point now arguing whether they are optimum or not) are a reality we cannot change. We must learn to move among them. We must learn how to realize ourselves not only as individuals but as a Czech nation which is more than the sum of individual interests. These wider interests do exist and let us not allow anyone of us or anyone outside even for a second to label them as nationalism. We are obliged to our predecessors to preserve Czech statehood. We must not join the European Union as individuals or various institutions, communities, municipalities or regions. We are joining the European Union as the Czech Republic.

The exceptional quality of this historical moment will motivate speakers here as well as abroad to deliver lofty speeches about Europe, about Europeism, about European civilization and culture and about the values that have been applied on this continent for centuries – surely in a slightly different manner than in other parts of this world. It will motivate them to poetry. And I would like to warn against it. We are not joining Europe because we have been part of it for a long time, in fact always, even at the times of our subjugation. We are joining European Union and our task is thus much more prosaic: we must learn how to live in the Brussel´s structures and in the complicated supranational organization which has nothing to do with poetry. We must not get lost there. We must make sure that our identity does not get blurred and that we do not lose the basic attributes of the Czech state which – I firmly believe – we all respect and shall respect also in the future.

I am an optimist. And thus I am convinced that judged by our past as well as by our future we shall succeed in our task, in the task of the current generations and that we shall use this extraordinary moment in a positive way.

Václav Klaus, Spanish Hall of the Prague Castle, April 30, 2004


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