On Wednesday the Czech President Miloš Zeman presented his views in the European Parliament. What kind of Europe does he want?
The attitude of the President of the Czech Republic to his European vision in points:
Miloš Zeman supports:
- creation of a full European political government that would replace the clerical European Commission
- unified foreign and defence policy
- unified social and economic policy
- the federation according to him should establish the minimum, not the maximum, limit of taxes
- creation of a unified and efficient European army
- full legislative initiative of the European Parliament
- European candidatures, not the current national ones
- the Banking Union (he sees the advantage of two controlling mechanisms: ECB and national banks)
- auditing of state budgets (however, the structure should remain in the competence of the national governments and parliaments)
- in the long term: accession of Russia to the EU (it should become one of the leading countries of the European Union)
- accession of Croatia and potential accession of Serbia; so far he is not considering accession of any other of Balkan states
- the European Constitution which “should set the competence in which the national state is too weak”
- bankruptcy of Greece “so that it would work as a deterrent for other countries”
- the Eurozone which has to have “unified fiscal policy, debt brake and unified tax policy”
- accepting the Euro around the year 2017
Miloš Zeman rejects:
- unitary superstate with unified norms; he dislikes hyper-regulation of the inner market
- joining the European Stabilising Mechanism (ESM)
- accession of Turkey to the EU
- current form of the EU agricultural policy
- multiculturalism (he uses the “Muslim ghettos in Western Europe where the ability to assimilate is close to zero” as an argument)
- possible accession of Kazakhstan to the EU (similarly to Turkey he backs his arguments up by the cultural differences)
- Lisbon Treaty which he considers a “balderdash”
- any kind of support of the Palestinian leaders in misusing the financial means
The form of the European integration – institutional vision
Miloš Zeman supports the continuation of the European integration. According to him it is the way to “increase the effectiveness of all the EU member states and the way to improve the prestige of the European Union”. He calls himself a “Eurofederalist”.
In broad terminology, federation means: “full economic, fiscal, financial, social and political union with strong executive (European government) and legislative organs (Parliament) able to make autonomous decisions reflecting the true European interests”. In accordance with this vision, Miloš Zeman is a supporter of a transfer of some powers onto a supranational level and of a creation of a fully-fledged European political government. Federative Europe should have unified foreign and defence policy, unified social and economic policy and should also create a unified European army. Miloš Zeman’s argument for this is the European defensive inability and the fact that the Europe’s security is financed mainly by the Americans via the NATO. The European army should therefore be able to autonomously execute foreign interventions.* It is because of the terrorist threat the EU should perform stricter policy because the current “mildly pacifistic attitude deepens the conflicts even more”.
On the other hand Miloš Zeman rejects the idea of the European unitary superstate with unified norms. Harmonising legal regulations of the Union are supposed to ensure that “the products introduced at the European market are of high quality when it comes to protection of health, security and environment and to ensure free mobility of the products by replacing interstate rules with unified harmonised system of product introductory conditions so that the products would become freely mobile”. And it is the regulations of the European inner market that became the target of Zeman’s criticism.
Miloš Zeman does not agree with these unified regulations and protests against accepting, for instance, the norms concerning light bulbs and liquors and introducing obligatory quotas for female representation in high management. According to him, this “overregulation” stems from the activities of European bureaucracy for it is mainly the Brussels officials who design individual European norms in fields in which, according to Miloš Zeman, individual national governments would do far better and more effective job. And the way to deal with the European bureaucracy is to politicise the EU via strengthening the authorities of the European Parliament and to create the abovementioned EU political government which would replace the current transitional government of Euro commissioners. Currently, the European Parliament does not have a full legislative initiative and executes three main tasks: discusses and approves the EU legal regulations (together with the Council), supervises other EU agencies (especially the European Commission) and thus controls their democratic functioning. Together with the Council it also approves the EU budget.
What is the President’s vision of the composition of the European government and the form of its election? The government would be elected on the all-European level – i.e. a Czech citizen would vote for a representative of an all-European political party. The elected government could then be either a majority rule (supported by the European Parliament), or a minority rule (backed up by the opposition’s tolerance – similarly to the system that is in practice in the USA).
Miloš Zeman also supports the creation of the European constitution which should have “ten pages at maximum” and should transfer the competence in which the national states are too weak to the Union level.* Such constitution would “easily pass all the referendums in the member states”.
On the other hand he rejects the Lisbon Treaty which he considers a “terrible miss” and “balderdash”.* In comparison to the Treaty of Nice he especially dislikes the “decrease in voting rights of the smaller states”.*
Economic and Monetary Union
In the long term, President Zeman supports accepting the Euro; however, he claims that it can happen no sooner than around 2017 because the Czech Republic constantly fails to meet the necessary Eurozone accession criteria. We should join the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG), known as the Fiscal Compact (which the government of Petr Nečas refused to join) after we have accepted the Euro. According to Miloš Zeman the Fiscal Compact is the matter of the Eurozone and not of the European Union as a whole. Earlier he claimed that not signing the Fiscal Compact was a mistake since the act of not joining pushes the Czech Republic to the periphery of Europe. The current government of Bohuslav Sobotka is determined to sign it. “If we want to accept the Fiscal Compact now, I will definitely not veto it. I would just like to politely remind certain politicians to be so kind and read the Fiscal Compact properly before signing it” said the President in the Hyde Park TV program of Česká televize on 12th February 2014. Miloš Zeman claims the point of signing the Fiscal Compact to be that in the Czech Republic we would be “forced” to save more money. Another positive point would be the “possibility to participate in some of the meetings which would not be possible otherwise”. The Fiscal Compact is accepted unreservedly by Denmark, Bulgaria and also Romania. Other states such as Poland, Hungary, Sweden and Lithuania used the opportunity to join the Fiscal Compact excluding the part III – i.e. budgetary rules which bind the countries to have the national budget either surplus or at least stable. Considering the Czech Republic’s hundred-billions deficit, the President suggests to accept the Compact excluding the abovementioned part III.
On the other hand, President Zeman is positive about the mutual banking supervision in case it would mean dual controlling mechanisms – supervision of the European Central Bank on one side and supervision of national banks on the other. He would not mind even the auditing of state budgets; nevertheless, the structure of state budgets would have to remain in the competence of the national governments and parliaments. He does not agree with our accession to the European Stabilising Mechanism (the emergency funds for those states of the Eurozone which got into financial problems) because he considers this a waste of money. For this particular reason he refused the financial help to Greece. According to him, Greece should have bankrupted in order “to serve as a deterrent for other countries” because the Greeks used to live above the affordable standard.*
The Eurozone in the Czech President’s vision should have a “unified fiscal policy” (which would mean, apart from others, a European Minister of Finance), “a debt brake including the sanctions for no fulfilment” (which is a part of the Fiscal Compact) and “a unified tax policy” in order to prevent tax paradises, such as Cyprus, from happening. Nevertheless, the European tax policy should estimate the minimal, not the maximal, tax limits.*
Miloš Zeman also does not approve the current form of the agricultural policy of the EU for the Czech agriculture is not based on small family farms which are supported by the EU agricultural policy mainly because of France.*
Expansion of the European Union
Miloš Zeman thinks that Turkey, the long-term candidate for accession, should not become a member of the Union. On the other hand, he sees the future in the accession of the Russian Federation which should take place within a couple of decades. Russia should become “one of the European Union leading countries” and thus bring “the necessary counterpart to the triangle of the UK, France and Germany”. President Zeman stresses that the alliance of the EU and Russia would be of contribution to both sides due to the mutual interdependence. The EU possesses the modern technology but is energetically dependent on Russia; Russia has vast natural resources but its economic structure is not diversified enough. Zeman supported the accession of Croatia to the EU and he also thinks positively about the potential accession of Serbia. However, he is not currently considering accession of any other of the Balkan states.
Foreign dimensions of the European policy
Miloš Zeman rejects the idea of multiculturalism: he supports his arguments by the existence of Muslim ghettos in Western Europe whose residents “have no ability to assimilate”.* Concurrently he considers the Muslim culture an intolerant element. It is the cultural differences that are the main reason for his refusal of Kazakhstan’s accession to the EU as well – the same as in the case of Turkey.* President Zeman also disagrees with any kind of support of Palestinian leaders because he claims the financial means designed for creating the Palestinian state “in the past ended up in the bank account of Arafat’s wife”.*
For the purpose of this analytical paper we have gone through all the available public statements of Miloš Zeman since his political comeback in 2012.
* Miloš Zeman: Zpověď informovaného optimisty z roku 2012, str. 56, 57, 59, 63, 64, 66, 73, 76.