President Zeman: There are nonassimilable minorities in Europe

The Czech Republic is a long-term supporter of Ukrainian accession to the European Union: it is a part of the agenda proclaimed at the European level. Do you think that Ukraine should be offered a promise of future membership like it was in the case of Turkey?

Being a supporter of the idea that Russia should become a member of the European Union in twenty years, I see it as fairly logical that Ukraine is capable of the same in somewhat shorter time. Concerning Turkey I would be more hesitant for it is a different culture.

Everybody sees the European Union as a free trade area and an economic community, for me the European Union is also a cultural community. Undoubtedly, Ukraine and Russia are parts of the European culture: be it Taras Shevchenko, Dostojevskij and many others.

Concerning the accession of Turkey, you have long been against it and you claim that Turkey should not be a part of the European Union. Could you explain why?

I will try to be brief. Approximately one year ago the Turkish Supreme Court issued a decision which forbade Mr Edrogan’s AKP political party for it was unconstitutional. The decision was accepted by the simple majority of the Supreme Court members but they were one vote short for the decision to be accepted by the qualified majority. In that case the political party would be forbidden just like – and this is a nice analogy – the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If the Turkish judges themselves reached such decision, why should I not have the right to fear the ongoing Islamisation of Turkey with all its consequences?

You also mention the Muslim minorities in Western Europe and you say that there is a problem with their assimilation. What should Europe – or rather the individual states – do with it?

Although I do not support the American theory of absolute assimilation, I was in Texas and they told me that fifty years ago the Czech minority there was the second most significant one to the Spanish minority. Nowadays, you will find no Czech minority there but it happens naturally, it is not an artificial process. On the other hand there are communities which are unable to assimilate. Take the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic: in the past some people used to call them “Charlies”, nowadays they represent and appreciated integral part of our society and they have my deepest respect.

So we can distinguish between two types of minorities: assimilable and nonassimilable. There are no problems with the assimilable ones. Concerning the nonassimilable ones – especially with unemployment reaching 11 % – it is absolutely logical that almost all the governments of Western Europe reach to migration adjustment steps.

The third part of the interview:

The third of four parts of the interview with the President of the Czech Republic deals with Greece and the reasons why it should drop Euro. During our interview President Miloš Zeman commented on the situation of the Eurozone, Euro and the European Stabilisation Mechanism. Other thematic areas which were covered are the context of the Greek situation, the position of the Czech Republic and the Lisbon Treaty. Why do the democrats (ODS) want a referendum on Euro? How does the President see the role of the Czech National Bank? What is “creative destruction”? The interview was given exclusively to the European Values Think-Tank.

Mr President, could you imagine the Eurozone having a single Minister of Finance with an important competence who would make decisions concerning, for instance, the budget of the Eurozone?

Do the United States of America have a single Minister of Finance? As far as I know, they do and yet the member states of the American Union have different tax problematic and tax fees. Why could the European Union not have it as well?

The answer of your opponents would be that the European Union could not have it because the European people and the feeling of “Europeanism” is not strong enough and therefore, there is no solidarity common to the individual parts of the entity.

On the opposite, there is too much solidarity and it is overstated. I suggested expelling Greece from the Eurozone, not from the European Union. The same applies to the case of Cyprus and we could continue even further.

I will just specify this: the participating governments decided to help via the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM) but it was against the will of their voters. When the Eurostat does a survey on fiscal transfers and if they should be realised – for example between Slovakia and Greece – people often answer that they should not.

I agree with them. In my opinion the European Union needs three pillars in the economic area. It needs common currency, which it has already but a state cannot stand long just on one leg like a stork, nor can a man and in no case can the European Union. Next it needs common fiscal policy and tax policy. Common tax policy means harmonisation of taxes. Why should there be tax islands where people “hide” their money only because there are low or zero taxes? Nowadays there already is a foundation of a common tax policy in the form of the minimum 15% tax rate. That is the first step which can be followed by harmonisation of corporate taxes, harmonisation of GDP etc.

I believe that this is the way the European Union will follow. Concerning the budget, nobody has the right to dictate the national governments how much of the budget expenditures should be spent on health care, education or public transport. The fiscal supervision should prevent extensive indebting because it is the debt service which pushes expenditures on health care and education from the expenditure structures. There is a constant growth of the tax service share and the tax service is predominantly represented by the interest rates – it is not even the principal itself. This means that the debt does not diminish but you keep paying bigger interest rates due to the deficit budgets.

Let us get back to the problematic of Greece. You support the idea of expelling Greece from the Eurozone which means that it should go really bankrupt because it could not be helped via the ESM. The opponents of this opinion claim that Greece should not be let to go bankrupt for its governmental bonds are owned by European banks (namely French and German). Thus the potential fall of Greece would mean a serious problem for these banks which keep money of the citizens of the member states.

Yes, that is a perfect idea. However, it is not supported by real numbers. According to the statistics the GDP of Greece represents no more than 2 % of the GDP of the European Union (different sources speak about different numbers). Concerning the bonds, how many bonds which are difficult to claim do European banks have in their portfolios?

Let us remember the recent Island crisis, let us remember the Irish crisis. All these crises were solved. Therefore, to make excuses that the Greek bonds would cause a chain bank crisis when 50 % of the Greek debt was pardoned means that when solving the Greek crisis there were far bigger losses than there would have been in the case it had been only the bonds that would expire. Anyway, Ireland managed to get out of the crisis that way.

But it was also with the help of the European Stabilisation Mechanism

That was a stabilisation loan. I would not interchange a loan with forgiving somebody 50 % of their debt: there is a significant difference between these two.

Had Greece left the Eurozone, it would mean that no one would give it a loan and it would bankrupt anyway…

But of course they would give them a loan. The International Monetary Fund or any other commercial bank would lend them money. Of course, in such case it would be for much higher interest rate because interest rates correlate with the level of risk.

Greece would obviously have to reintroduce drachma and would have to devaluate it dramatically. I keep mentioning the example that the average monthly pension in Greece used to be fifty thousand crowns (2,450 USD/1,437 GBP/1818,18 EUR) and after radical restrictive changes it decreased to thirty-nine thousand crowns (1,911 USD/1,120 GBP/1418,18 EUR). While in the Czech Republic the average monthly pension is miserable eleven thousand crowns (539 USD/316 GBP/400 EUR) so in Greece there are areas in which it is possible to save money. Furthermore, there will always be a bank willing to lend you money; the only question is for how much. Surely it will not be the gracious two per cent (or even less) from the European sources, but rather harsh ten or maybe even fifteen per cent.

In such situation strong political and civil instability would probably occur in Greece and that is what the European statesmen were afraid of, or at least they unofficially claimed so. They do not want political instability within the European Union whose member Greece is expected to remain.

Firstly, we keep rolling the problem in front of us like a piece of rock. We do not solve it, we keep postponing it. Schumpeter had a beautiful theory called creative destruction. It says that if you destroy something, something new will occur. If one technology fails, there is a new opportunity to create a new one. He exemplified it on the cruel WWII bombings but here there is no need for bombing, nor is there need for war. There will be new competitive areas (either in industry or in other business sectors) and thus there will be space for new personalities and ideas.

The Gap theory says: it is vital to wedge into the objectively existing spaces on the market. If you want to prevent the Greek revolution, which (under the current system of manipulation with Greece) might occur in five or ten years, induce the kind of pressure that we just spoke about. A crisis is not just a state it is an opportunity and a challenge.

So what you are saying is that the European Stabilisation Mechanism – or any other common bundle of money, which would serve as a safety pillow – should not even exist?

I can imagine it serving well in cases of significant natural disasters. However, if we do not see an incapable government as a natural disaster of its own kind, the European Stabilisation Mechanism is a reaction to the fact that the Pact of Stability and Growth was not being followed. If it was being followed and if its sanction mechanisms were brought to life, there would be no need for the European Stabilisation Mechanism whatsoever.

But what happened? When France and Germany broke the rules of the Pact of Stability, suddenly these rules were forgotten; and that was the first mistake after which the European Stabilisation Mechanism was created.

Now a more general question. You said that the Lisbon Treaty is a “balderdash” because it is too broad and contains very little details. You said that there should be a European constitution created which would be brief – about ten pages – and should point out the in which the national states fail. You named areas such as defence policy, fiscal policy, economic policy, tax policy. Are there any more that should be included?

Of course there are. Nobody doubts that environmental protection surpasses national borders because environmental catastrophes do not respect any borders. The constitution should also include common ecological policy; not the fanaticised green policy but a sensible and sensitive protection of the European environment.

We already have a foundation: the European Social Charter with its first article which speaks about the right for a job. One former social democratic Member of Parliament told me that the right to a job was a communist invention so I asked her to kindly read the European Social Charter. It is a policy of a theoretical full employment. Practically, you will always have frictional unemployment of two to four per cent, but compared to the existing 11% unemployment in the European Union it sounds much better. Therefore, the European constitution should contain also these environmental and social elements.

Any other policy should be dealt with on the European level?

I would rather say what should not be dealt with on the European level. For instance, there should be no cultural policy: every country has its own unique culture and an idea of a uniform European culture (which itself is based on diversity) should definitely not be contained. I believe that there should be a European army but not a European police and I could go on.

How do you perceive the Czech Republic and its role in the European Union? What should it uphold? Could you name the main priorities?

The national interests of every state consist of three parts. Firstly, it is security; secondly, it is economic growth and thirdly, it is social stability (if you want social reconciliation). Concerning security, I believe that it should strengthen mutual security elements of the European Union with the prospect of European army. Concerning economic growth, it should accept Euro, harmonisation of taxes and a fiscal organisation which would not dictate the budget structure but rather prevent excessive indebting – sometimes called the debt brake. Concerning social reconciliation, it is necessary to strengthen what is called tripartite. Practically, there is no European tripartite; recently, I spoke about this with the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation. However, this organisation is not considered a full-fledged partner neither for the European Commission, nor the European Parliament.

Do you think that the acceptance of Euro should be preceded by a referendum?

There are two opinions on this: one is presented by the democrats (ODS) but I am afraid that they only stand by it because they are against Euro.

The second concept is: yes but the referendum has already happened – it was the referendum on accession to the European Union. Adopting Euro without giving a specific date was a part of the accession. And because about 70 per cent of citizens voted in favour of the accession, I find it redundant to repeat a referendum on one and the same question.

In other words, it is up to the government and its citizens as voters to choose the date. Therefore, it would be fair for all the political parties to state the date in their programmes and not to try to conceal it.

Do I understand it that you say there should be no referendum?

Yes, there should be none because there already was one.

The Czech National Bank (CNB) is a big opponent within the Czech Republic. In its council there are economists who oppose this opinion. How do you see the role of the CNB? And to speak directly, in the context of Jiří Rusnok’s nomination, do you plan to send more of the pro-Euro economist to the CNB council?

Firstly, yes – that is a brief answer to your question. Secondly, with the joining of the Eurozone the CNB will lose a great part of its competences to the European Central Bank. Have you ever seen an institution which would voluntarily give up its competences? The real battle between the CNB and Mr Singer is not a battle based on economic arguments. It is a battle about preservation or at least prolonging of the competences of the National Bank – and thus his personal ones as well.

You can also read our analytical papers and our opinion in the Lidové noviny [Czech daily newspaper].The text of the interview is authorised by the Office of the President of the Czech Republic.

The second part of the interview:

 

Mr President, you are a supporter of the European political government. The European Commission should not be bureaucratic. On the political scene we can see that the European political parties prepare their candidates for the post of the President of the European Commission. What are the next steps that should be made in order to get closer to the type of the European government that you imagine?

I would start with the European Parliament because the European Union should be a parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy presupposes the parties which candidate to the Parliament to be European-wide; there are already first prerequisites for it such as the existence of political parties like the Party of European Socialists, European People’s Party, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party. Unfortunately, there are also the European Greens but what can one do about that?

This means that parties as such are based on European foundations and the only difference is that the candidatures are national. Therefore, the next step – not in the European election which will take place at the end of May but rather in five years – we could have unified party candidatures  with the possibility to place the top representatives of the individual national parties to elective positions. Then there would be no national but rather partial fractions within the European Parliament.

Can you imagine the common European candidatures to work? There is a worry that in the national states the election would go according to the national key. It would be difficult to know all the candidatures, or at least their major part, of all 28 member states.

I fully understand that and that is why, despite I am a supporter of “circling” in national Parliament election, I would not recommend it here. It would make sense only if the member states had approximately the same number of citizens. The management of these political parties, which has regular meetings anyway, should nominate a mixture of strong personalities from individual national countries.

Another problem of this concept is that nowadays the candidates for the post of the President of the European Commission are presented but they are fairly unknown. For instance the candidates from the socialist party, people’s party and several others are undoubtedly eminent personalities but according to various researches (especially in the new states) almost nobody knows them.

I would argue about that. I know Martin Schulz and I am not the only one. I believe that as the Prime Minister of the European Parliament he has a great chance to become the new President of the European Commission. I hope that he will not get taken over by the so-called Beckettian syndrome when will realise that he actually governs European bureaucracy – because the European Commission is nothing but European bureaucracy – and will try to transfer his experience from the European Parliament to the level of the future European government.

He told me once that he realises the European Union should not deal with the curvature of bananas, rotundity of apples and flushing water closets – which is, by the way the last directive of the European bureaucracy – but it should rather deal with real conceptual, strategic matters.

How do we reach the point in which the European Commission is not dealing with details? By the Commission having a more exact mandate? For example, the social democrats and the European People’s Party form the next European Commission and thus they would, to interpret you, start dealing with the crucial matters?

That depends on a personality. A real strong personality does not deal with details – you know the ancient sayings Minima non curat praetor [The praetor does not concern himself with trifles]. On the other hand a weal personality, that kind of a grey clerk (not to mention anybody) is happy to be dealing with energy saving light bulbs because he or she has no capacity for anything else.

So yes, I do believe that it depends on the results of the European election. It depends on who will win, if the socialists or the conservatives, and who the liberals will bond with. That could be a coalition in the new European government. For instance in Germany the liberals merged here with the social democracy, there with Christian democrats. If there is a truly significant personality leading the European Commission, there is a possibility it will start transforming the Commission according to his or her image.

Does it mean a transformation according to the image of the political government which focuses on the crucial matters?

Precisely, the one that does not deal with the curvature of bananas.

There is one more factor and that is the interest of people to vote in the European election. In the last election in 2009 the participation in the entire Europe and in the Czech Republic was only 28 per cent. Does this factor play any significant role for what mandate will the government have? Those who would oppose you could say that it is the new European government but it was elected only by 30 to 40 percent of the European citizens.

We also had quite a dismal turnout and no one questions the legitimacy of the new Czech government which came out from the Parliamentary election. A week ago Tony Blair said that in Britain 35 per cent of voters will go to vote in the European election and that is a slightly higher number than here, but still no miracle. You know, my long-term idea, which I do not force onto anybody while I am alive but which will be thought about after I die, is a “compulsory voting”. Precisely what is nowadays in Belgium, Luxemburg, Australia, and what was here during the First Republic.

Low turnout leads to those objections against the representativeness that you mentioned. Compulsory voting eliminates these objections. In Belgium the turnout is 90 percent; the rest 10 %) has to pay a small fine to the state budget for not participating.

So according to you the compulsory voting should also work for European election?

Definitely, it should work for both national as well as European elections. However, as I said it is a long-term dream of mine. I am seventy now, I guess I will die at the age of eighty-five which means that in approximately fifteen years the topic will start to be seriously discussed.

What else could be done to increase the turnout?

If you skip my radical proposal on compulsory voting, which would dramatically increase the turnout for no one wants to pay fines for not participating, there is a difficult educational effort to be educed: the highest chance to success lay predominantly with young generations. Notice that “Europeanism” or “feeling of the European people”, if you wish, is much stronger among the young generation because they travel a lot. Once you cross the borders of the European continent, you realise you are in a different culture, different civilisation. The difference is not that visible when you travel to America but it gets stronger in Latin America, it is strong in Asia and it is the most obvious in Africa. The more often you would travel to Africa, the more you would experience the feeling of “Europeanism”.

Let us move to the question of the European Parliament. You claim that it should become a real parliament and should have legislative initiation: that is the possibility to draft law. It is not so nowadays. If I understand it correctly the primary law should be changed and the Parliament should draft legislation, the Commission should prepare it and the member states would then approve it.

No, it would not work like that. We have to start with the fact that the European Parliament is not a parliament. In other words, it is not a fully-fledged parliament; it is more of a game – playing a parliament. The opponents of the European Union who point out the democratic deficit of the European Union are absolutely correct.

In contrast to them I say: let us eliminate the democratic deficit by spreading the competences of the European Parliament. And in that case a real European government should gradually be created. So far there is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs but why there is no European Minister of Defence? Why not a European Minister of Finance?

I could go on. It is a long and gradual process. It is not something you could do in a day but you need a certain target image: and the image is a fully-fledged parliament and a fully-fledged government; not just a bureaucratic Commission full of clerks.

Now to your federal image of Europe. You say that Europe should have a common foreign policy because the national states are too weak to play roles on the world level. Can you imagine what policy should that be? Can you imagine what it should be like? Your opponents would say it is practically impossible because the interests of individual states are incongruent which stems from the history of Europe. We could see that during the conflicts in Syria and Libya. I know it is impossible to give a specific date but how do you imagine us getting to that target state?

The first phase should consist of regular meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union, which there already is to a certain extent. Furthermore, there are regular meetings of the Ministers of Finance and the Ministers of Defence although these take place less often. At these meetings a consensus should be reached. I know that a consensus, or a compromise, if you will, is very difficult to achieve but if you remember the history of Europe, looks at the Marshall Plan, look at Jean Monet’s project, look at numerous others projects of which the axis was first the duo Mitterrand-de Gaulle and then Sarkozy-Merkel. Therefore, an idea that the interests cannot be harmonised is overly pessimistic. On the other hand a specific idea needs strong parliamentary support and so we need to create a strong parliament whose majority would be able to support the specific concept of international or defence policy.

You suggest having a common European army. Nevertheless, there are arguments which oppose the idea of its creation. For instance, Petr Pavel, the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, says it is a problem. Already in 2007 “battle-groups” were created and the Visegrad Four is one of them. Now, in 2014, the process is still at its start.

The project has started already – the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs and to a lesser extent also the Hungarians participate in it so the “battle-groups” already work (even though the representation varies). Do not forget the French-German brigade, which is also a conceptus. But I will tell you why I think that the pressure on creation of common army will escalate. There are two main factors.

Firstly, there is the shift of the interests of the United States from Europe to the Pacific Ocean. It means lesser interest in Europe and lesser will to provide such support via the NATO as they provide now. It is an evident pressure on Europe to put more money on army. Like I said during my speech in Strasbourg, considering the low compatibility of the 28 armies in the European Union, a common European army is paradoxically cheaper because money can be saved through the division of labour. It is something that was described already by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations.

The second fact is the Ukraine crisis which directly forces us – especially after the Bosnian crisis experience in which Europe was unable to intervene – to build its own army as a second supporting pillar to the NATO.

Can you imagine, obviously within several decades, that it would be a real army as we understand it? That is including air force and navy. I am asking because personally I cannot imagine that, for example, the French army would willingly give the keys to their nuclear suitcase to some kind of a common European rank especially that they developed the nuclear weapon themselves without any help from the Americans (in contrast with the Brits).

After my speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg a representative of a centre-right fraction said that a European army is possible within ten to fifteen years. These are no longer decades. Concerning the nuclear suitcase, the French have given up the Franc; the Germans have given up the utmost symbol of their pride – that is the German Mark. Do you think it is so difficult to give up the nuclear suitcase when both French and Germans have given up the symbols much more important for their lives in the respective countries?

I understand the symbolic but I cannot fully imagine it. It is the sovereignty of state, which can be measured in different ways, depends on the ability of a state to protect its territory and the existence of a certain foreign policy. Therefore I do not see the parallel which you draw between currency and own fully-controlled army.

Yes, you would be right if your original premise, that every state of the European Union is able to protect its territories, was true. However, it is not. We see the situation in Ukraine and the threats it represents – that is a certain reinstallation of the Russian power which used to be somewhat forgotten. On the other hand we should not exclude the rising influence of China. Nevertheless, I consider these reasons less important. My main reason is the increasing influence of Islamic fundamentalism such as an organised oppressive group which can be in possession of nuclear weapons.

Let us demonstrate this on a case study. Imagine that there is a coup in Pakistan and suddenly you have a Muslim country with nuclear weapons. Iran is not at all far from it, too. So here you have the specification of threats that not even the biggest countries of the European Union – let alone the small ones – can effectively defend themselves.

You keep repeating that in the long-term horizon you can imagine Russia becoming a member of the European Union. You spoke about the fact that the Russian federation could become a counterpoise to the triangle France, Germany, United Kingdom. Can you still imagine it?

In a long-term – twenty years – I do, even for economic reasons. This year Russian economy will grow 1.5 % per year which, when compared to China, is a ridiculously low speed. It is not a diversified economy for 50 % of Russian export is energy. On the other hand, the European Union suffers from the energy deficit and is, to a certain extent, dependent on Russia. Therefore, both of them are complementary economics because Russia needs modern technologies to diversify its economy and not to put all its eggs into one basket, as we say. And the contemporary European Union needs cheap and stable energy supply.

However, to answer your unpronounced question: it does not mean that the European rules will adapt to the Russian ones. Quite the opposite; be it the Copenhagen criteria or any other complex of rules. I believe in gradual transformation of Russia into a democratic society. Contemporary Putin’s Russia is significantly more democratic than it used to be under Stalin or Brezhnev. We do not realise the difference and insist on it becoming even more democratic. So be it but for that new personalities are needed; with their new concepts, new programmes and among others also new political parties. For instance, social democracy did not stand a chance in Russia: no matter how surprising it is, it is true.

You believe Russia will become more democratic but I have to ask: why should it? Why should Russian governmental garniture – perhaps not the existing one but a future one – do it?

I answered this question by presenting the tragic number 1.5 which is a terrible waste of opportunities when we consider the Russian potential. So in the future, some Russian representative will realise that Russia is economically stagnating. With a slight delay it is reflected on the worsening standards of living, increasing corruption etc. Therefore, it will be in the interest of Russia and its political elites to make further democratising steps.

The first part of the interview:

European Values Think-Tank: When we talk about the Czech politics within the European Union we must not omit Ukraine. The Czech diplomacy was, via the existing government, for a response to Russian activity but it did not support the idea of square economic sanctions. Would you, as a Prime Minister, support these sanctions? What should the most appropriate reaction be?

President Miloš Zeman: Once I gave a lecture to Cuban emigrants in Miami and I told them: “Congratulations to your policy towards Cuba – square sanctions, boycott, and ignorance. Your strategy turned out extremely successful but Fidel Castro has been the President of Cuba for forty years now. What if you rethought your strategy after all these years and changed it?” What I told these Cuban emigrants in Miami I say now to those who demand sanctions against Russia and other countries.

By demanding sanctions they create something what we call the fort under siege myth. Those who would otherwise be exposed to a righteous critique for their inability to rule proclaim that they are surrounded, that their enemies want to destroy them and therefore, they have to unite. Who does not unite is a traitor – thus you ostracise the opposition and without opposition there is no democracy. Bravo, let us have strict sanctions against the Russian federation and we will return Russia from its autocratic phase back to the phase of totalitarianism.

This fort under siege myth has been used by Vladimir Putin’s administration for quite a while, only with varying intensity.

I would not blame it for it. I even believe that there have been certain attempts to soften the myth; for example by a common activity against the Afghan terrorists when Russia played a role of a logistic base. I think that there have been very positive negotiations on cancelling the visa policy. I would consider this matter more of an episode and again I repeat that if you want Russia to be totalitarian, introduce sanctions.

What other reaction of the European Union would be appropriate in the matter of days, weeks, or even months? What kind of reaction could you imagine?

To prevent a Ukrainian civil war – that I believe to be a realistic aim. I do not belong among those who idealise demonstrators. Of course there were also democrats in Maidan; but there were also people who burnt policemen and cut off their heads. The site of the Ukrainian Parliament is guarded by the Ukrainian Protester Army (UPA) which is, in fact, banderovites. Some people claim that the right-wing sector is at least a semi-fascist political party; therefore, it would be good if not only Czech diplomats but also Czech businessmen (for we have a quite extensive political relationship with Ukraine) searched for as many contacts as possible among the democratic political forces and Ukrainian economic groups which are not directly connected to political violence.

Recently I had a two-hour discussion with Achmetov, the wealthiest Ukrainian, in Donetsk. It was a very interesting debate. You know, a totalitarian regime would call it an ideological diversion or ideological subversion, if you will. On one hand you have the fort under siege myth, while on the other hand you have what I recommend against it: ideological diversion. Now I borrowed a communist or a totalitarian term but you know what I mean by it – as broad contacts, youth exchange, cultural exchange, tourism and tens and hundreds of other things. But in no case a blockade and in no case sanctions.

 

The interview took place on Thursday 13th March, 2014 at the Prague Castle.

Commentary on low EP election turnout in the Czech Republic


Our analysis shows that the main cause of extremely low election turnout in the Czech Republic is the lack of knowledge about the EU in general and especially about the role and work of the European Parliament. In a poll by Median, only one in three Czechs can name a single MEP and 86 percent of Czechs state that they don’t know what the EP and MEPs do. (43 percent Slovaks can name two MEPs, only 12 percent Czechs can do so) People do not cast their votes for institution from which they don’t know anybody and have no idea what it is good for.


 In last ten years, Czech political parties have undoubtedly failed to explain to its citizen what the EP as a legislative institution exists for. Now, they are only harvesting fruits of their ignorance of EU topics. European integration process faces a serious problem in lack of trust and interest of citizen in it, but Czech politicians are to blame for extreme lack of knowledge about the EU among Czech citizen.”


“From the European point of view, five major political europarties have put forward a candidate for the president of the European Commission. This move was supposed to show 400 million EU voters that they can choose a person who would lead the European executive. Nevertheless, most of the national parties have not put the europarty candidate in the middle of their national campaign.


 In 2009, the turnout was 43 percent. We don’t know exact numbers yet, but is looks like that this attempt has failed to attract significant number of voters. In other words, there is a lack of real debate on EU topics in member states since national parties do not prioritize EU agenda in their rhetoric and programs and europarties are weak and unable to reach voters with topics which are being dealt in the EP.”


Jakub Janda

Deputy Director, European Values Think-tank

Defining Responses to Rise of Extremism in Europe

DEFINING RESPONSES TO RISE OF EXTREMISM IN EUROPE

Tailor-Made Recommendations for Mainstream Parties in Central Europe

Who we are?

The coordinator of this project is the European Values Think-Tank, a Prague-based non-partisan public policy institute, together with the League of Human Rights, advocacy NGO based in Brno. The main donor of the project is the Open Society Foundations (Think Tank Fund).

The Problem

In recent years, we have witnessed a rise in influence of the extremist and populist parties and their leaders in Europe. The extremists gain media and political space from the fact that mainstream political parties ignore immigration and minorities-integration agenda. The lack of sufficient political communication is the main reason why populists and extremists dominate the public debate about these issues and why they are even often perceived by the voters as more competent to solve the related problems.

What do we want to do with it?

As a result of the first part of our project, we have recently published a comprehensive monograph POLITICS AND POLICIES OF INTEGRATION IN AUSTRIA, HUNGARY, CZECHIA, DENMARK AND AT THE EU LEVEL. Politicians and party experts from centre-right and centre-left parties in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Poland will be separately provided with trainings and very practical tailor-made recommendations on how to communicate the sensitive issues of integration of immigrants and minorities to the public in order to marginalize chances of the extremist parties to control this issues agenda.

When?

Five National Seminars

Public discussions, expert roundtable and closed meetings in five Central European capitals aim to get national experts involved in further specification of recommendation created during the first part of the project.

Two Regional Seminars

Outcomes of the national seminars will be used for preparation of materials for workshops/trainings performed during the regional seminars.

Which parties will be addressed?

Without concrete improvements and results stemming from practical day-to-day policies, we cannot expect long term trust in the society and successful integration on a broader scale. We again focus on genuine measures that could be ideally employed by politicians of both side of the mainstream. We are aware that it is not possible to provide useful recommendations for centre-left and centre-right parties together; therefore we have decided to split political subjects according to their political profiling.

The 400-paged study is HERE available for download.

politics

 

 

What will the banking union be for and will it ever happen?

Background paper of the European Values Think-Tank, 2013-09-06

On the tenth day of July Germany significantly influenced preparations of the European Banking Union project. German government rejected the final draft of the second pillar proposed by the European Commission. The second pillar founds mutual Eurozone fund into which the European banks would contribute (1 % of insured deposits) and it also counts with the Commission’s right to accept the final decision about which bank should be restructuralised from the fund or, on the other hand, which should be left to bankrupt. Číst dále

Government’s Programme Statement: We will see about Euro, rather EU than NATO

The Czech Republic had been waiting for ninety-five long days until the new coalition government was named based on the result of the precocious October election. Contrarily, the new cabinet led by Bohuslav Sobotka did not hesitate for long and twelve days after the government’s naming the new programme document has been released. On February 18 it underwent trust-voting in the Chamber of Deputies. Číst dále

Rozhoduje Evropská unie o přílivu imigrantů do Česka?

Klára Samková, která stojí v čele kandidátky do evropských voleb za stranu Úsvit přímé demokracie Tomia Okamury, nedávno vzbudila rozruch svými vizemi o budoucnosti imigrace do Evropské unie (EU), které pronesla ve Dvaceti minutách Radiožurnálu. Paní Samková v rozhovoru s Martinem Veselovským argumentuje, že EU nesmí do budoucna přijímat už žádné imigranty, protože imigrace „je naprosto zhoubná jak pro Evropu samotnou, tak i pro imigranty.“ Jak se lze k této tezi postavit? Jak ve skutečnosti regulace migrace funguje? Jak migraci reguluje Evropská unie a jak se unijní imigrační politika vyvíjí? Číst dále

Fair play nebo diskriminace? Miroslav Šatan a Charta základních práv EU

Dopadl by zápas Slovenska s USA nebo se Slovinskem jinak, kdyby slovenský tým na ledě podpořil Miroslav Šatan? Hokejová hysterie kolem neúčasti Miroslava Šatana na olympiádě v Soči se dotkla nejen fanoušků, kteří dokonce založili facebookovou stránku „Chceme dodatečnou nominaci Miroslava Šatana na ZOH 2014 v Soči”, ale k tématu se vyjádřili i slovenští europoslanci. Opodstatněně? Číst dále

Chceme silnější zastoupení ČR v Evropské unii, shodli se kandidáti do evropského parlamentu během debaty v Ústí

Problematika nezaměstnanosti, úlohy České republiky v Evropské unii či řádné čerpání evropských dotací jsou jistě závažnými politickými tématy. A to nejen na celoevropské úrovni. Konkrétně se totiž dotýkají také regionů v naší zemi. Volby do Evropského parlamentu se blíží a názory kandidátů na tato témata nám mohou pomoci v rozhodování, komu dát svůj hlas. Proto také think-tank Evropské hodnoty pořádá sérii debat s kandidáty do EP. Tentokrát se debata konala v Ústí nad Labem. Číst dále