19.2.2009 - ENGLISH PAGES
Speech of the President of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus in the European Parliament
There is no end of history. Claiming that the status quo, the present institutional form of the EU, is a forever uncriticizable dogma, is a mistake that has been – unfortunately – rapidly spreading, even though it is in direct contradiction not only with rational thinking, but also with the whole two-thousand-year history of European civilization. [...] Let us not underestimate the fears of the citizens of many member countries, who are afraid, that their problems are again decided elsewhere and without them, and that their ability to influence these decisions is very limited. [...] Let us not allow a situation where the citizens of member countries would live their lives with a resigned feeling that the EU project is not their own; that it is developing differently than they would wish, that they are only forced to accept it. We would very easily and very soon slip back to the times that we hoped belonged to history.
The present decision making system of the European Union is different from a classic parliamentary democracy, tested and proven by history. In a normal parliamentary system, part of the MPs support the government and part support the opposition. In the European parliament, this arrangement has been missing. Here, only one single alternative is being promoted and those who dare thinking about a different option are labelled as enemies of the European integration. Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition. It was through this experience that we learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom. That is why political alternatives must exist.
And not only that. The relationship between a citizen of one or another member state and a representative of the Union is not a standard relationship between a voter and a politician, representing him or her. There is also a great distance (not only in a geographical sense) between citizens and Union representatives, which is much greater than it is the case inside the member countries. This distance is often described as the democratic deficit, the loss of democratic accountability, the decision making of the unelected – but selected – ones, as bureaucratisation of decision making etc. The proposals to change the current state of affairs – included in the rejected European Constitution or in the not much different Lisbon Treaty – would make this defect even worse. [...]
I say all of this because I do feel a strong responsibility for the democratic and prosperous future of Europe. I have been trying to remind you of the elementary principles upon which European civilisation has been based for centuries or even millennia; principles, the validity of which is not affected by time, principles that are universal and should be therefore followed even in the present European Union. I am convinced that the citizens of individual member countries do want freedom, democracy and economic prosperity.
At this moment in time, the most important task is to make sure that free discussion about these problems is not silenced as an attack on the very idea of European integration. We have always believed that being allowed to discuss such serious issues, being heard, defending everyone’s right to present a different than “the only correct opinion” – no matter how much we may disagree with it – is at the very core of the democracy we were denied for over four decades. We, who went through the involuntary experience that taught us that a free exchange of opinions and ideas is the basic condition for a healthy democracy, do hope, that this condition will be met and respected also in the future. This is the opportunity and the only method for making the European Union more free, more democratic and more prosperous. Václav Klaus, European Parliament, Brussels, 19 February 2009 [12:35 PM 12:55 PM]