Interview with President Klaus for Lidové Noviny, Prague
What do you think about the Irish No?
The whole of Europe should thank the Irish people for slowing down current erroneous processes towards more unification, the suppression of nation states, towards a ‘Europe of regions’, and towards greater centralization from above of which the Lisbon Treaty was the embodiment. Thanks to the Irish referendum this was a perfect example of what the common people think about this development – contrary to the politicians supporting the EU who are motivated entirely differently. I thanked a few Irish people personally.
What does the Irish NO mean for the fate of the Lisbon Treaty in your view? What will be its impact for the entire EU?
I cannot imagine any other development besides recognizing the fact that this is not the way to go. Let’s seek a different European model than a supranational state with its seat in Brussels. Let’s come back to the community of friendly, effectively cooperating states. Let’s keep most of the competencies on the level of states. We should let people living on the European continent be Czechs, Poles, Italians, Danes and not make Europeans of them. That is a wrong project. The difference between a Czech, a Pole, an Italian and a Dane (as random examples) and a European is like the difference between Czech, Polish, Danish and esperanto. “Europeanness” is esperanto; an artificial, dead language.
What follows from the Irish No for the Czech Republic? Should we continue in preparing the ratification under these circumstances, or is it not necessary? E.g. the British declared that they are going to continue in the ratification, despite the results in Ireland…
The ratification cannot be continued, the Treaty can no longer come into force. To continue as though nothing has happened, would be a pure hypocrisy. This would be worse news about the “state of the Union” than the Irish NO. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic ended last Friday. To pretend something else is undignified – at least if we are in a world where one plus one equals two. I think that the British didn’t declare anything. It was the Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown who declared something. The British democracy is much more complex.
Does the Irish NO change your attitude towards the option of having a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic? And if so, how?
The referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in our country is not necessary today; there is nothing to vote on. The only possible question would be: “Do you, the Czechs, want the Irish to vote again and differently?”. It is not about us today.
Should the European Union attempt to create an entirely new document after the Irish NO, instead of dusting the Treaty off or revising it?
Any document is only the last step. We need a new perception of the European integration process. It is necessary to explicitly repudiate the post-Maastricht development towards an ever closer union. The resulting document is then only a composition exercise, but it must be written on a different basis and by different people.
It cannot be written by a German politician who thinks in federalist terms and has been in the European Parliament for the past 30 years. It can neither be written by a Frenchman for whom “Europeanisation” is a way to increase the greatness and importance of France. It can neither be a representative of a country which wants to solve some of its historical traumas “via Europe”.
It requires an unemotional consideration about the right administration of “public goods” – which of them belong at the level of towns, regions and states and which at the level of the continent. And above all, which of them do not belong anywhere, because the issue is not about public goods but about “private goods” which must remain subject to the decision-making of free individuals.
What will be the impact of the Irish decision on the Czech EU Presidency in 2009?
We will have a little more competences than we would, was the Lisbon Treaty valid. The Treaty substantially weakened the states and therefore also the presidency of any one of them. But let us not live in illusions. I know well, that the entire concept of a rotating presidency is to a certain extent just a game pretending to represent a real democracy.