When Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, spoke at the European Parliament on January 20, many Members of Parliament left. This does not happen very often, so I wanted to know more about it and set out to find out about his true spirit in his speech. I really wanted to understand what was so provocative about it.
Here are my findings which are not so surprising at all: He posed a question to the MEPs: „Are you really convinced that every time you take a vote, you are deciding something that must be decided here in this hall and not closer to the citizens, ie. inside the individual states?“ So he wants more decision-making on the national level. Very new idea, huh? Secondly, he alluded to the possibility of „quite a number of possible and legitimate variants“ of the „methods and forms of European integration“. Not very concise. The EU should have the achievment of prosperity as its highest objective, so all we need is a „market economy“. Has anyone heard the financial crisis clap its hands? It must have partied. Most of his arguments were ex negativo and summarised what the EU is not: It has no parliamentary opposition, there is great distance between voters and decision-makers, there is no European demos.
From this speech, though, I did not really get a clue at all about his variant. Dear Mr Klaus, coming „from one of the important places where European thinking, European culture and European civilisation has emerged and developed“, what could the European Union do for you, what is your wishful thinking?
I was confused even more as many phrases of his speech hardly sounded critical at all. Here are some examples from Klaus’ pro-European thinking: He – and the Czechs – feel their „share of responsibility for the development of the European Union“. Well-said. „There is no alternative to the European Union membership.“ Also well-said. Interestingly enough, the lower house of the Czech Parliament had just accepted the Lisbon treaty one day before the speech, on Wednesday. Is Klaus just joking on us? I think, he just wants the big countries to listen to the smaller ones, the old to the newer ones. And this he has achieved, sort of. If not so many of the audience had left…