Sunday 11 October 2009

Vaclav Klaus and the EUSSR

The Czech President Vaclav Klaus has famously compared the European Union with the repressive Soviet system. (See, for instance: New Europe.)

Klaus has expressed loathing of the European Union his country has joined voluntarily, and of the amending Lisbon Treaty negotiated by its government and approved by its parliament.

Klaus has refused to sign the ratification instrument, until a belated new legal challenge by his supporters to the Czech Constitutional Court brought a temporary injunction against signing.

Klaus has kindled fears that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union could somehow reinstate the property rights of expelled ethnic Germans.

Klaus has - more than two years after the treaty negotiations started - demanded an exemption from the EU Charter.

Klaus has precipitated the Czech Republic into a severe constitutional crisis.

Klaus has caused serious problems for the EU member states and the institutions of the European Union.


Where would Klaus be, if the European Union really functioned as the EUSSR some critics want to call it?

Ralf Grahn


  1. "Klaus has expressed loathing of the European Union his country has joined voluntarily"
    You are naturally right but you don't know public feel in the Czech republic. The republic have had to join the EU, nobody doubt on it because no other choise is seen ("a return to Europe where we have been belonging at all times" was the motto after 1989). But the membership is felt similarly to a marriage of convenience - the union is not beloved much in the CR, many people think that the union meddles to much in Czech internal matters. Václav Klaus is a first advocate of these thoughts and has therefore many favourers. In other EU countries may many people be surprised at acting of Mr. Klaus, but in the Czech Republic, many people applaud him.

  2. Citizen of Europe,

    Well yes, my impression is that the Czech intellectual climate is somewhat introverted and that Czech participation in the European public sphere is limited.

    Something of an egg and hen problem, perhaps?

    On the other hand, old or new, narrow nationalist views exist in all EU member states.

    Take, for example, Great Britain, which has been a member since 1973, or the political groups of nationalist right and left outside the European mainstream in 2009.

  3. do you know what constitutional crisis is? i guess not .. second, i remember communism in our country and i remember SSSR influence in czech and i hate getting the same shit from EU now. you know.

  4. Anonymous,

    It might help your case, if you made an effort to express your ideas politely and based on some sort of reasoning pertinent to the question.

    Where would Klaus be in a real EUSSR?

  5. If the EU were like the Soviet Union, in the best case scenario Europol would have knocked his door at night and taken him in some gulag in Svalbard or Greenland (that would not have been allowed to withdraw the union, by the way).

    I don't know the Czech constitution, in Italy a President behaving like that would already have been impeached for "threatening the Constitution".

    I think that the Czech Republic should work out its internal problems, but also that the EU should find a way to avoid moving at the speed of the slowest member.
    Igor, Italy

  6. Klaus has (regardless of his reasoning with which I do not agree) shown that a very dubious attitude exists among the European elite (they except a "no" only when it is in accordance with their goals). If you organise referendums and ask people then be prepare to get a "no". The whole thing with the Constitution and now the Lisbon treaty is an unnecessary political program being produced by self-expanding eurocratic structures (and administration tends to multiply itself). The current (existing) Treaties are a very good basis and no change is necessary (they were already expanded in such a way by the ECJ that they represent a "constitution" and even allow criminal law in the first pillar). So the whole Lisbon (constitutional) project is an unnecessary political agitation. The only thing we need in the EU is to get reed of stereotypes we have between east and west and we need time to adapt to each other (we do not need a new treaty at the present time). And I am someone who is for a federal EU but I do not want a new treaty because it is not necessary (regarding the existing EU system and the ECJ case-law).

  7. Igor,

    Yes, the claims of some anti-EU campaigners, including President Vaclav Klaus, are ludicrous.

    We have not seen any tanks heading for Prague lately, or dissidents rounded up.

  8. Anonymous,

    You feel that the current treaties serve the European Union just fine.

    However, 27 member state governments have seen the needs differently, and the amending treaty has been approved according to the democratic procedures in all 27 EU members.

    If the Czech Republic aspires to function as a parliamentary democracy, formal ratification should follow as a matter of course.

    I still wonder where Klaus would be, if we lived in a real EUSSR.

  9. The problem with the need of the 27 governments of the EU to change the treaties resembles the fairytale of "The Emperors new clothes". Nobody dared to say that the emperor is naked (once the Constitutional topic came into play no national government dared to say no - group pressure psychology; nobody wanted to appear anti-European). And Klaus in that regard resembles the little child who cries it out at the end.
    And something more about the democratic process in the EU countries - in my country (a very small EU Member) almost nobody is familiar with the treaty. I know people who work for the representation in Brussels on very high posts and do not differentiate between the three EU pillars. So, at least in my country the Parliament just adopted something "European" without even knowing what they are adopting. In my country even the judicial system is at the stage of learning what "direct effect" of directives means and judges do not differentiate between EU official journal and the national official journal. So much about the democratic process of adoption in my country (and I imagine in some other countries as well). But you are right, the comparison with the Soviet Union is exaggerated, although not totally unfounded. For example, people working for the EU had serious troubles for stating their doubts about the Lisbon treaty.

  10. Anonymous,

    Despite your pessimistic view about the quality of representative democracy in your country, I imagine that after a decade of treaty reform efforts at least some of the governments and parliaments have more than a fair knowledge about what the Lisbon Treaty is about.

    As far as I understand, the Czech Republic is predominantly a parliamentary democracy, and the Lisbon Treaty has been approved by qualified majorities.

    Talking about fairy tales, don't you think that President Klaus rather resembles the child who cried wolf too often?

    Besides, I really think that the EU member states need to take each other and their common interests into account, acting in a spirit of loyal cooperation and solidarity.

  11. (Grahnlaw:) "my impression is that the Czech intellectual climate is somewhat introverted and that Czech participation in the European public sphere is limited"
    Yes, your perception is accurate. Only a little discussion about Europe, a role of the state in it is held in the Czech republic (I do not write, discussion about ideas on Europe's future, because such discussions exist not). Some political scientists and ex-politicians even say that the Czech republic has no real own and long-term external policy (actual Czech politicians react chaotically only to impulses from outside) and I believe it observing the state. Besides, the people were being educated to neglect other countries outside in the time of communist rule and many of them are interested only in domestic matters - foreign countries are incomprehensible or even hostile to them (it holds especially with regard to Germany).
    Another thing is that the Czechs have a mental complex of a hurt nation that is constantly subjected to another nation: in 19th century to Germans in Austria, in WW2 to Nazi Germans and from 1948 to 1989 to Russians (the Soviet Union). Many Czechs want now an absolute independence and the European Union is seen by them as kind of a new dominance (by the way, I hold the view that the Poles have the same attitude to their new independence) - you can see it in Anonymous' comment from 13:28.

  12. Citizen of Europe,

    I understand the traumas you refer to, with Nazi and Soviet occupation still in living memory.

    But the fundamental error about the EUSSR simile is that the European Union is a (weak) 'empire by invitation', not force.

    The EU is based on voluntary and peaceful cooperation between European states, although its complex structures contain supranational elements and germs of European level democracy.

    In the Czech Republic, as elsewhere, I hope that politicians, media and citizens start to see themselves as constructive parta of a community with admirable aims and values, although in need of much improvement.


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