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March 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 3)
Vaclav Klaus European
Belohradsky, Lidove Noviny (independent), Prague, Czech
Republic, Jan. 4, 2002
In Brussels, Vaclav
Klaus [former Czech prime minister and current member of Parliament]
questioned the creeping processes whose political meaning has
not been much discussed. Rather than looking for answers to
his questions, however, the Czech public is instead in the bad
habit of denouncing the questioner. That is a pity; good questions
Klaus poses a question at the annual meeting of the World
Economic Forum, Jan. 26, 2001 (Photo: AFP).
In Brussels, Vaclav Klaus asked whether we should continue Maastrichts
technocratic trajectory of European unification: I think
that...we have to start reversing some of the trends and tendencies
of the past decade....It seems to me that we have to respect
parliamentary democracies in all of our countries and the sovereignty
of member countries....It is essential, in my opinion, that
the next intergovernmental conference put an end to the creeping...unification
of the continent and formulate, by means of quasi-constitutional
documents or in some other way, the final goal of the European
From this assertion follows a rejection of any further expansion
of majority voting in the European Union (EU): If there
is more majority voting, the EU clearly enjoys less legitimacy,
according to Klaus.
be a Euro-realist means more than seeing the EU as a 'history-making
idea.' It also means the ability to understand it as an
institution controlled by a system of overpaid bureaucrats
and managers who serve specific interests and strategiesa
network of pressure groups, riven by conflicts that would
be counterproductive to conceal.
Isnt the expansion of majority voting in the EU the first
step toward a Euro-tyranny? Many political philosophers in Europe
ask similar questions; some commentators even speak about a
revitalization of national interests since Sept. 11. Should
European unification translate into a federation? Many European
political parties do not support such a development. For example,
during a recent procession, the Northern League, an Italian
coalition party, carried a banner with the slogan No to
Neo-Nazi Europe; two ministers of the current Italian
government marched behind it.
Who wants a European federation? Who wants to take over national
parliaments? Do we want to have the same position in the EU
as Bavaria does in Germany? This is a real political possibility:
Taxpayers could reap savings from the maintenance of the expensive
embassies of the Czech Republic throughout the world. But, really,
we have to have a public discussion of the final goal
of European integration, without calling everyone who
asks about it a Euro-skeptic. Recently, Jacques Rupnik, an important
French political scientist and Euro-optimist, has also complained
to me about the atmosphere in the Czech Republic.
Is a European superstate being slowly formed? In
his book Democracy in Europe, Larry Siedentop, a political
philosopher, seeks to answer the question of how to create a
European state that is not a superstate, that is
not a kind of post-Napoleonic France. He considers
three conditions crucial.
First, a written European constitution must be prepared together
with an apparatus capable of upholding and implementing it.
Second, it is necessary to create transparent political representation
that will not be too preoccupied with governing itself, capable
of representing the heterogeneous and ever-changing authorities
and interests of Europeans. The third condition is an all-European
activist solidarity, an interest by the individual parts of
the EU in one another.
Rather than talking about a superstate, Siedentop suggests using
the term hyperstate, an entity that comes into being
when some parts are hypertrophied at the expense of other ones,
causing deformation of the whole. From his perspective, the
current EU is a grotesque formation possessing a hypertrophied
bureaucracy and a European Commission, the latter with an unclear
status. These conditions make possible the development of a
European super or hyperstate.
To be a Euro-realist means more than seeing the EU as a history-making
idea. It also means the ability to understand it as an
institution controlled by a system of overpaid bureaucrats and
managers who serve specific interests and strategiesa
network of pressure groups, riven by conflicts that would be
counterproductive to conceal. I think that the communication
strategy of the Czech Republics Ministry of Foreign Affairs
regarding the EU is excessively propagandistic, concealing essential
issues whose open discussion is the basis of a democratic society.
For example, the European Commission is divided into directions
generales, quasi-ministries of a kind that deal with various
fields, including support for commercial transactions and interests.
Many business organizations from the EU have purchased enterprises
in the Czech Republic and transformed them into branch offices.
Rapid adaptation to European environmental standards, for one,
would increase expenses for those companies.
Do they really support a quick adaption of Czech standards to
EU standards, or, rather, are they lobbying for various transition
periods that are advantageous to them?
Instead of shouting at Vaclav Klaus, our Eurotic
journalists should track the behavior of these companies and
the exemptions they may be seeking. For instance, are they going
to resist a rapid increase in salaries in our country by means
of political pressure? If, for example, EU companies in the
Czech Republic do not want the salaries of their employees to
adjust quickly to EU levels, then why should they want to conform
to other parameters that also mean losses for them? For their
part, EU labor unions have an opposite interest in wanting to
reduce differences in the cost of labor quickly.
the idea of free enterprise responsible for tax frauds,
corpses at the bottom of a dam, extortion of employees,
and intimidation of unwelcome competition? Is the idea
of the free competition of parties in the political marketplace
responsible for campaign finance improprieties?
Is it a political goal of the EU to be an independent global
player in the world next to China, the United States, and Russia?
After Sept. 11, does it make any sense at all to speak about
European defense? Isnt the EU, with its Eurocentric
rhetoric, hopelessly archaic in the current phase of globalization?
At the summit in Laeken, a convention was established to prepare
a European constitution under the leadership of [former French
President Valéry] Giscard dEstaing. What sort of
European constitution should it be? How, for instance, can institutions
be as representative as possible while maintaining efficiency?
Should Euro-regions or national states be the basis for the
The EU could not have chosen a more symbolic place for the drafting
of the European constitution than the Castle of Laeken, where
Belgiums King Leopold II directed the bloody exploitation
of the Congo and the slaughter of almost half its population.
I wonder whether our European leaders opened their talks in
the excessively decorated rooms of the royal castle by observing
a minute of silence in the name of the victims of this holocaust.
At the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa,
Third World countries demanded compensation for colonialism
but instead got nothing but a noncommittal apology. Colonial
plundering is not a distant past; it is a crime
to which statutory limitations do not apply. All the evil of
our times, including terrorism, is nothing but its consequence.
The constitution of the EU must also be a categorical step toward
overcoming the legacy of colonialism, and, therefore, its foundation
has to be the universalization of the concept of citizenship
and the globalization of human rights; otherwise it will be
nothing but a scrap of paper.
And yet, wont any new universalization and globalization
be a new type of colonialism? This is the European dilemma.
Vaclav Klaus also said the following in Brussels: The
real origin of terrorism and violence in the present-day world...lies
in the anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-capitalist, anti-market
positions and ideologies that I see around me. As Ladislav
Stoll, academician and Marxist luminary, similarly exclaimed
during a memorable meeting of cultural workers: It starts
with Cubism and ends with weapons opening fire on workers.
Is the idea of free enterprise responsible for tax frauds, corpses
at the bottom of a dam, extortion of employees, and intimidation
of unwelcome competition? Is the idea of the free competition
of parties in the political marketplace responsible for campaign
finance improprieties? Of course they are: We share freedom
with those who exploit it, since there is no light without shadow.
What was the impact of Marxs teaching? asks
Vaclav Havel. Has it shed light on the hidden mechanisms
of history, or has it been the primary cause of the worlds
gulags? Both: It has shed light on the mechanisms of history,
but it has denied individuals their right to change freely the
course of history.
Are inquisitions, witch hunts, mass killings of Latin Americas
native population, and the attack on the twin towers merely
the tip of the iceberg (the submerged part of which
is monotheist religion)? Undoubtedly. But Kolkatas Mother
Teresa or priests who fight for social justice in Latin America
are part of the very same iceberg.
Every cigarette pack carries a statement from the health minister
warning that smoking causes cancer. What type of warning should
we have our poor friend Pavel Dostal, the minister of culture,
print on various publications financed by the [Czech] Ministry
of Culture? That education can sometimes cause depression? That
at other times it can prompt demonstrations against meetings
of bankers in Pragueor that it can result in May Day rallies
in Paris, Prague Springs, attacks on Winter Palaces and maybe
even the Ministry of Culture itself? Basically, Vaclav Klaus
is suggesting a mass re-education of European nations. But anti-capitalism,
anti-Americanism, and anti-liberalism cannot be eliminated so
long as people read the Gospel along with their Adam Smith;
and, more importantly, so long as they are discriminated against,
humiliated, breathe contaminated air, and live in the threatening
shadows of nuclear power plants, such as Temelin.
After Sept. 11, an obligatory, civilized patriotism is required:
in other words, an active defense of the values upon which
our civilization is based. If somehow I were to try to
express the fundamental European value, then I would repeat
a remark that has been ascribed to the German philosopher Hegel:
Better a mended sock than a torn onenot so with
self-consciousness. The universal European heritage is
the ability to build a human society on the disturbing realization
of the differences and limits of ones own way of lifeon
the torn, not mended, consciousness of people.
Belohradsky is a philosopher and frequent commentator on