Friday, 18 April 2014

Respekt: Czechs' take on recent history excludes them from EU unification

11 December 2012

Prague, Dec 10 (CTK) - The Czech view of the past as a series of interventions from outside prevents the Czech Republic's participation in further European unification, Jiri Sobota writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday.

He is commenting on the Czech announced absence from the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU in Oslo yesterday.

The Czechs and Britons are the most Euro sceptical countries of the EU 27, but Oslo shows that the Czechs are more radical, Sobota writes.

He writes that British Prime Minister David Cameron has sent his deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrats head Nick Clegg to Oslo to represent Britain.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus as well as Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) have refused to attend the ceremony over disagreement with the prize, Sobota recalls.

He says the role of a Czech Clegg could have been played by Deputy Prime Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who is pro-European, but he has excused himself saying no one has invited him to Oslo.

No other politicians, including those from the opposition, have offered their participation, Sobota writes.

The presence at or absence from the ceremony are but symbolical gestures, but they reflect the way how particular states perceive the purpose of the EU's existence, their own history and their place in Europe, Sobota writes.

It is well known that the unification of Europe is in its essence a defence project against the barbarism it "discovered" in itself in the course of the 20th century, Sobota writes.

This applies to the Germans, French and also the Spanish. The EU as a source of peaceful coexistence has helped free Spain, Portugal and Greece of their bloody dictatorships and later inspired the transformation of the former communist bloc.

The stand of the majority of Britons is more reserved. What is a traumatic remembrance of the continental Europe is perceived as the strongest moment in modern history across the Channel, Sobota writes.

He says Britain stood alone in its resistance to the Nazis and it succeeded in defending not only itself, but also the whole democratic western civilisation to a great extent.

The Czechs, on the contrary, view their historical tragedies most often as a series of interventions from outside, starting with the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 that was followed by the forced counter-reformation, to the Munich betrayal in 1938, to the Soviet occupation in 1968, Sobota writes.

The dismay at own weakness or inclination towards evil does not usually predominate in this interpretation, Sobota writes.

He says the Czechs usually comprehend the post-war transfer of Germans as a consequence of the war that they did not cause, and the Czechs would have most probably coped with communism by themselves if the tanks of the Warsaw Pact had not frustrated the Prague Spring communist-led reform movement.

The freedom that the Czechs long for is first of all freedom from outer pressures, while the world beyond the border arouses Czechs's mistrust and suspicion, Sobota writes.

He writes that the feeling that the Czechs can do with themselves dominates both history and the present.

Viewed this way, it is easy to consider the unification of Europe as another attempt at usurpation, repeat of a many-times experienced story, Sobota writes.

It is almost instinctive. When Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), during EU negotiations about a banking union, tabled unexpected demands and threatened to veto the whole integration process, he referred to the Munich experience, Sobota writes.

"The model 'about us without us'," must not be repeated, Kalousek told his domestic public.

The Munich agreement that Hitler signed with Britain, France and Italy opened the door to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, the occupation of the Czech Lands in 1939 and eventually led to the outbreak of World War Two.

However, such an attitude is not always logical. It would be naive to expect the resolved EU core to give up the banking union over one troublemaker, Sobota writes.

As a result, the Czech Republic is threatened with isolation and precisely the feared "about us without us."

If the Czechs are really unable to join a deeper unification of the continent and do it with trust, they should quickly find and discuss an alternative solution, Sobota writes.

The hesitating Britons are locked in very frank disputes over their future in the EU, including considerations about a referendum on leaving the EU, Sobota writes.

However, the ruling elite, including Cameron, do not want to go to extremes and they seem to prefer negotiations about new, looser relations with the European core, Sobota writes.

He says the Czechs, for their part, cannot hope for having a similar position in possible negotiations with Brussels like the third strongest European economy, Britain.

Not to go to Oslo may be easy. But undoubtedly more difficult steps now lie ahead of Czech politicians and other opponents of a united Europe. They should explain their view of the future of the country if it stood aside in Europe.

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