Czech President: Europe Needs Liberty, Not Unification

Czech President Vaclav Klaus again warns against Europeanism. In a speech yesterday in Luxemburg Mr Klaus called for changes in the European Union. “The EU needs a change, it needs to be transformed. It does not suffice to make a cosmetic change,” he said. “Europe does not need unification, but a liberal order.”

Mr Klaus was in Luxemburg to open the new Czech embassy. The Czech Republic and Luxemburg have close historical ties. One of the most important periods in Czech history was the rule of John of Luxemburg, who was King of Bohemia from 1310 to 1346, and of his son, Charles IV, Count of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia and German Emperor, who reigned from 1347 to 1378 and who built the Charles Bridge, one of Prague’s most famous landmarks.

The Czech President said that he has serious “doubts about the EU’s ever-closer future.” It is striking to see that he shares these doubts with other former East European dissidents, such as Vladimir Bukovsky, who was in Brussels last month to warn against the transformation of the EU into a new Soviet Union, an “EUSSR.”

Mr Klaus explained to his Luxemburg audience:

The reason why my way of looking at the European integration process is somewhat different is probably connected with my (and our) historic memory, with my (and our) specific experience, especially with experience of the Communist era. This determines my attitude to many issues. This gives me a special sensitivity or perhaps – for other people without the same experience – even oversensitivity. I will try not to overplay or overstate it.

In his speech he said that the introduction of the euro has brought about huge costs: “The costs – demonstrable, for example, in the European economic growth slowdown in the last years – have not been recognized.” He said that the EU enlargement with ten new member states, mostly former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe, “increased the EU’s democratic deficit.” He warned that “The EU has continued – at an accelerated speed – to expand the number of pages of its legislation which now deals with almost every aspect of human life and human activities.” He added that “The ambitious attempt to accelerate the unification process in the EU by the Constitutional Treaty has been rejected but creeping unification goes on as if nothing happened.

The Czech President said that Europe and the European Union are not the same concepts.

When I look back at the last half a century, I see two different stages of the European integration process, with two different integration models. At the beginning the liberalization model prevailed. The first stage was characterized by inter-European opening-up, by the overall liberalization of human activities, by the removal of barriers at the borders of the countries as regards the movement of goods and services, of labour and capital, and of ideas and cultural patterns. Its main feature was the removal of barriers and the continuation of intergovernmentalism.

The second stage, which I call the harmonization model, is defined by centralization, regulation from above, harmonization of all kinds of ‘parameters’ of the political, economic and social system, standardization of conditions of production and consumption, homogenization of human life. Its main feature is unification orchestrated from above and the birth of supranationalism.

I am in favour of the first model, not of the second. I know, of course, that in reality we will always have the mixture of both models but the question is which one is the dominant one. There can be no doubt about where we are now. My position is clear. I am convinced that the unification of decision-making at the EU level and the overall harmonization of all kinds of societal “parameters” went farther than was necessary and more than is rational and economically advantageous. It is not an unqualified argument. I am aware of ‘externalities,’ of ‘spillover effects’ and of ‘continental-wide public goods.’ These phenomena undoubtedly exist and should be properly reflected in European institutions and legislation. However, when I say “exist”, it does not mean that they dominate. The second stage of the European integration process has been based on the completely wrong idea that they do dominate. To artificially impose such an institutional solution is a mistake. We all lose, not gain.

We should do something about it. I suggest to redefine the whole concept of the European Union, not just to make cosmetic changes. I suggest going back to the intergovernmental model of European integration. I suggest going back to the original concept of attempting to remove all kinds of barriers, going back to the consistent liberalization and opening-up of all markets (not just economic ones). I suggest minimizing political intervention in human activities and where intervention is inevitable it should be done close to the citizens (which means at the level of municipalities, regions and states), not in Brussels.

Mr Klaus stressed that the nation-state “is an unsubstitutable guarantor of democracy (opposite to all kinds of ‘Reichs,’ empires and conglomerates of states).

We should make our society free, democratic and prosperous. It will not be achieved by democratic deficit, by supranationalism, by etatism, by an increase in legislating, monitoring, and regulating us.

We need a political system which must not be destroyed by a postmodern interpretation of human rights (with its emphasis on positive rights, with its dominance of group rights and entitlements over individual rights and responsibilities and with its denationalization of citizenship), by weakening of democratic institutions which have irreplaceable roots exclusively on the territory of the states, by the ‘multiculturally’ brought about loss of a needed coherence inside countries, and by the continental-wide rent-seeking of various NGOs.

[...] We need a system of ideas which must be based on freedom, personal responsibility, individualism, natural caring for others and a genuinely moral conduct of life.

More on this topic:

Czech President Warns Against Europeanism, 27 August 2005

The Congress of Brussels, 6 December 2005

Former Soviet Dissident Warns for EU Dictatorship, 27 February 2006

A View from the 50 States of America

I have for nearly half a century observed from afar the evolution of the EU.  What Europe need from the beginning was a free, common market and a common defence policy.  That was all.  As in America, competition between states was an essential element in rewarding sound public policy and punishing bad policy.  Unfortunately, the EU has become loathesome bureaucratic monstrosity that seeks to suppress all competition between member states.  It is an evil empire in the making. 

I have come to regard the EU as a genuine threat to peace and liberty and as such the mortal enemy of my nation. 


@ Ken Lydell

You seem to exaggerate grossly. Given that the EU is a "soft" power, which is rarely ever willing to use 'force' on its own, it can hardly be described as a "mortal" enemy. On the few occasions the EU has been willing to 'intervene militarily' (Balkans, Afghanistan) it was under US prodding and [i]de facto[/i] under a NATO umbrella (though not [i]de jure[/i] under NATO in Kosovo).

No, the 'threat' from the EU to the USA consists in the capacity of the EU, at times, to undermine the 'legitimacy' of US action elsewhere in the world, and in EU 'contributions' to spreading anti-americanism elsewhere.

The EU sometimes acts as an 'obstacle' to US actions that help preserve freedom in the world, but it is not (at least not yet) a "mortal" enemy.

Your point about "(policy)competition among the states in the US" is a good one. The problem in the EU is the tendency of the current generation of politicians to seek "harmonisation" in most things, instead of continuing to focus on further 'liberalisation' of markets (where the focus was in an earlier period of the European integration proces). This was well explained in a recent article in the Brussels Journal.

PLease leave - others will follow!

We need a few more statesmen like Klaus in Europe, unfortunately they seem to be rather thin on the ground - for God's sake, my country's (Malta) legislature approved the constitution with unanimity - this in no way reflected the desires of the electorate.

It would be great if at least one important member state pulled out as Xavier Muelders said. This would scotch once and for all the 'aura' the EU has. It would only take one country to leave and join EFTA - I'm sure it would quickly be followed by others and we'd be able to kiss goodbye to this silly and dangerous experiment.

Me, please

It would be great if at least one important member state pulled out as Xavier Muelders said. This would scotch once and for all the 'aura' the EU has. It would only take one country to leave and join EFTA

I volunteer the UK for this important job. "End of an aura" - sounds nice, doesn't it!

Bob Doney

The Czech Republic and the EU

I fully agree with the statements of the Czech president; but in that case I wonder why he hasn't decided to pull back the Czech Republic from the EU. In that case the Czech Republic could become member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA); together with countries as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Than the Czech president has got what he wants: A country beiing member of a larger 'liberal' free trade community; without facing European planned bureaucracy.

Wise men always come from the East...

The irony is hopefully not lost on the Western Europeans that the call for freedom within the EU now comes from those countries that were once the role model for the socialist totalitarians in the EU.