Future of the Czech Republic in Europe

Two well known advocates of European integration, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Delors were answering the questions concerning Europe of a thousand of students who attended the meeting. The meeting took place in Paris, on Wednesday, 14 November 2012, and because I had a chance to actively participate in it, I would like to be the mediator of a couple of observations related to the Czech Republic.

Two key actors of European integration.
The speakers were born in the years of 1925 and 1926 and in the course of their lives they’ve discharged both European and national offices. Even after leaving them, these witnesses of the past par excellence are still active.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the French president between the years 1974 and 1981, promoted the institutionalization of the Council of Europe (regular meetings of the heads of states and EU governments) and also chaired the Convention on the Future of Europe which, in 2002 and 2003, prepared a draft of the new architecture of the European Union. However, the Constitution for Europe based on this draft was rejected in French and Dutch referenda.

Jacques Delors was the chief of the European Commission from 1985 to 1994. Since the half of the 1990s he’s been involved in the think tank Notre Europe (Our Europe), currently collaborating with other European non-governmental organizations on the draft project of the Energetic Union.

Back to the purpose of European intergration.
The first German he has ever seen was the one he was shooting at during the WW2, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing said. Thus he reminded us of the basic purpose of European integration: to prevent another war. In the context of his reminiscence, peace appears to be an achievement fueled by the collaboration of European states, which cannot be taken for granted. This fact needs to be highlighted also in the Czech Republic where nothing but the single European market is systematically stressed.

The enlargement of EU in 2004 and 2007 was premature.
Both speakers agreed the enlargement of EU, which involved also the Czech Republic, was premature. Jacques Delors pointed out that neither a deeper integration nor any reform of the European institutions preceded the enlargement. The accession of 12 new member states made the Union ungovernable. Giscard d’Estaing was sceptical about the Eastern Enlargement as well. According to him, the post-communist states were searching for protection and economic support. Thus the accession negotiations were very much about the single market and the issue of political union was dealt with only a little.

Crisis of the euro? The problem lies in speculation and the violation of rules.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is famous for his dissenting attitude towards the crisis. In his opinion the euro is doing well; it’s indicated by its exchange rates against other currencies as well as the fact that 25% of world central bank reserves is exactly in the euro. On the other hand, he criticized the European Comission for its long silence about the irresponsible behaviour and the explicit violation of rules by certain states. He pointed out that the salaries of Greek civil servants were rising three times as quickly as those of their German counterparts. Therefore, the forced cuts don’t represent an outcome of the crisis, but a return to the rules; what’s unfortunate for many of the protesting nations is that it takes place at the time of world economic recession.

Further integration? Yes, it could be without the Czech Republic.
The issue of the negative attitude of some states towards a deeper integration, which would ensure some budget control and prevent a potential next crisis, was discussed as well. The Czech Republic is one of the loudest oponents of any socio-economic measures carried out on the European level. Jacques Delors said he’s never had any illusions about all states’ accepting a single currency. At the same time, it is vital for him that the eurozone have a single budget, and the states without the euro will have to get reconciled with not participating in certain European negotiations. However, if we aren’t the members of a grouping, we thereby lose the power to influence its structure and internal rules; above all, it applies to a state with the economic and demographic importance of the Czech Republic. As Delors says, “increased cooperation” is a way out of the crisis. True to his mission of a chair of the European Comission, Delors suggests to deepen the integration by means of small gradual uniting adjustments.

The Czech Republic at the European periphery? Our voluntary exile.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing offers the EU a solution worthy of a statesman. Until the year 2040 a new monetary, budgetary and fiscal union should be established – based on the free choice of every member state. It would be a strong political commitment, a kind of shock therapy for the European integration. If some states, as for example the Czech Republic, didn’t want to be a part of the formation, their decision would be complied with. Nevertheless, they cannot hinder the others’ joint course of action. It’s evident that if the Czech Republic wanted to step out of its voluntary isolation later on, it would join a group already formed – by its later entry the Czech Republic would lose the chance to influence its nature.

The meeting with Delors and Giscard d’Estaing showed that the EU enlargement the Czech Republic was involved in is perceieved as having been too fast. Retrospectively, it seems neither the accession states nor the Union were sufficiently prepared for it. In addition, some of the new members aren’t willing to strengthen the European cooperation and it appears the others are going to move forward without them. In the future, if they wanted to enter the narrower group of states, they would have to go through the accession talks once more. If they didn’t, they would have to play according to the rules whose creation they didn’t collaborate on.

published: 24. 2. 2013