An Open Letter to Officials of the European Union

From a Czech Citizen

Earlier this year, our country assumed the presidency of the European Union (EU). To many of you, our attitude and approach can politely be described as somewhat disconcerting. As a Czech citizen, allow me to give you an explanation.

From our birth as a nation in 1918, we Czechs have moved through history via big steps rather than smooth strides. And in 1989, we finally became free. However, freedom is not the same thing as democracy.

We remain handicapped by post-communist morals as well as by a history which punished those who begged to differ. Our reaction has been to withdraw into one’s self. We shun giving something for nothing, since basic principles count for very little. We are the only European nation that legally harbors the only remaining European Communist party that refuses to renounce it links to a bloody past of torturing and killing our own citizens. True, we are bothered by omnipresent post-communist corruption, but just as with everything else, we shrug our shoulders. Seventy percent of us never go to vote.

For us, rulers and empires never signified anything good. We’ve had our share of them. When someone came to liberate us and we waved their flag, it was only a matter of time till someone else made us pay for it. That is why we mock great powers over our (very good) beer, be they old Austria, Germany or Russia. For many of us, Brussels and the EU tap into this sensitivity; another distant ruler with laws that no one really bother to explain.

Today, we are like a nineteen-year old adolescent who grew up without proper parenting. Confronted with the unbelievable opportunity of leading Europe, such an adolescent can react either with humility and buckle down to the task at hand, or regress in chest-pounding and bluffing. But the former is not possible since our political system is still young and therefore governed by survival tactics instead of open non-partisan discussion on key issues.

Perhaps the best example of our current adolescence is our president Vaclav Klaus, who not only is a product of the communist state but is also unfortunately infected with a fatal dose of narcissism. His deep-seeded need to always be the center of attention, coupled with his inability to grasp complex issues have forced him to rely on populist tactics, this time convincing the rest of us that the EU is the work of the devil. His disjointed statements, such as his claim that the EU represents the same threat to us all as does the former Soviet Union, serve to irritate an ever-increasing number of citizens and politicians here and abroad. No wonder that Mr. Klaus has never received a formal invitation to a state function from any major European power or from the United States.

But our nation’s interest is not to wrap ourselves in the Czech flag. Our interest lies elsewhere—in a strong and united Europe. As a Czech citizen, I remind you that it is our pro-European government, not the president, which determines our international policy.

Martin Jan Stránský
Physician, Publisher, Czech Citizen


The New Presencewinter 2009

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