A Plan for Europe

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 2:27 pm by cyclops

In an editorial in yesterday’s Financial Times entitled Why Europe Must Reject Centralisation, Vaclav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, shares his thought about the future of Europe in the wake of the French and the Dutch voting “no” to the EU constitution.

In explaining the “no” votes, President Klaus writes:

Citizens of the European Union were recently invited by their leaders to use the so-called “reflection period” for presenting views on the further course of European integration. We should take this invitation seriously. The acceleration of integration during the past 20 years has been realised by a gradual but systematic undermining of the former inter-governmental nature of relations between countries.

These changes started in the 1980s. Critical arguments were not taken into account by the political elites and their fellow travellers. They have always considered themselves an infallible avant-garde, selected by history to lead the confused masses. The political elites knew that a shift of decision-making from state to supranational level weakens the traditional democratic mechanisms (inseparable from the existence of the nation state) and, as a result, radically increases their own powers.

Referendums suggest ordinary people see things differently. We should mention the unconvincing French Yes as well as the Danish No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the Irish rejection of the Nice Treaty in 2001 and the Swedish No to the euro in 2003. Nothing changed until this year’s French and Dutch No votes to the EU constitution. This time it worked. The outcome led to the collapse of the house of cards constructed without the authentic participation of those who were supposed to live in it – the citizens.

In pondering what fills this void, President Klaus offers the following:

The idea of building a “State of Europe” must be forgotten. Since we all are – I suppose – against the “national” nationalism, we should not start building “European” nationalism. We need a system of liberal democracy that requires authentic citizenship connected with the natural loyalty of people towards their own nation.

We should create an Organisation of European States, whose members will be individual states. It will be necessary to get rid of words such as “European citizenship”. The membership must be motivated only by a common belief in the ability of the member states to act in some areas jointly, in the common interest. The mechanism of decision-making must be consensual, at least in all important matters.

It’s a thought-provoking piece and a good read. Check it out.

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