Jan Zahradil: Evropu čekají těžké časy, pokud bude dál ignorovat realitu

Evropa čelí primárně politické krizi, nikoli fiskální. Poslední volby v Řecku a ve Francii, které rozhodla domácí témata a problémy, byly jasným důkazem soumraku nadnárodního modelu evropské spolupráce. Na pražské konferenci amerického think-tanku NCPA (National Center for Policy Analisys) to řekl europoslanec Jan Zahradil.

Z dlouhodobého hlediska tak podle Jana Zahradila není tlak od reality odtžených elit na stále těsnější integraci udržitelný. Kromě průzkumů veřejného mínění nebo ekonomických i politických problémů tomu napovídá i řada výroků politiků i intelektuálů v zemích, kde federalismus dosud zcela ovládal veřejný diskurz. Optimálním řešením by byl pozvolný přesun k volnější unii spolupracujících států, který by začal například předáváním některých pravomocí zpět na úroveň členských států a vytvářením podstatně flexibilnější a na podporu volného trhu zaměřené EU. Alternativou ke „klidnému“ rozvolnění unie by podle Jana Zahradila naopak mohl být dramatický rozpad EU, který by si vynutily z voleb vzešlé nacionalistické a tvrdě euroskeptické síly.


Celý text projevu Jana Zahradila na NCPA (National Center for Policy Analysis) Chairman’s Conference, z 14. května 2012 v Praze:

Dear guests,

 it is more than appropriate to talk about the situation in EU just now, after presidential elections in France and parliamentary elections in Greece. Both these elections brought interesting results. In France, it is not important, that the winner is socialist – that is more or less obvious in France. Again, in Greece, it is not important, that it turned the political situation to the left. France and Greece might have turned to the left, but the real thing is that this is not a result of the ideological battle between left and right (keep in mind that on the contrary, in Spain and Portugal, there were left-wing governments that were very recently defeated and replaced by centre-right governments).  What we see in EU, is rather a fight between national and supranational principle. Governments are falling because of the crisis. But people, if asked, do not put their trust just into the opposition of the fallen government. They vote for national leaders who speak mostly in national terms, giving national responses to national questions. People vote more for nationally oriented political forces with national rhetoric, rather than for supranational or paneuropean-oriented forces.

Why is it ? It is because EU is facing primarily political crisis, not the economic or fiscal one. It is a crisis of one particular model of European integration, the so-called federalist model, invented after WW II by Schumann and Monnet and reinforced in 80./90. by mighty trio Kohl-Mitterrand-Delors. That model dominated over Europe during last 55 years. And now it is coming to its final stage. Economic crisis – or crisis of the single currency – is just one symptom of that decline.

You will never hear this from current European political leaders. They grew up within this EU model and within the political culture it created. They invested all of their political capital of a lifetime to continue it, it is literally part of their political genotype. They simply cannot admit something really went wrong at the very beginning, that would mean the biggest political defeat for them in generations. So whatever happens, you can be sure that they say this is just temporary obstacle on the way and they continue with only one slogan and one solution : more Europe, more Europe and yet more Europe. More european integration, that´s their universal – and wrong – response to any problem. If the diagnosis is wrong, the cure is wrong as well, as we see just now.

Let me make three points on this:

1) European “federalism” per se

Continental political mainstream – both centre-left and centre-right, christian democrats and socialists – always believed in concept of EU federalism, federalist paradigm of Europe. These people thought and still think they could remodel EU according US and to create some supranational entity – USE. They seem never to understand they can´t, because Europe is very different from US. Federalism can deliver a model of limited, democratic government within a nation. It cannot do so within an association of distinct and diverse 27 nations, lacking common sense of history, common public opinion, common citizenship and also common interest i.e. in foreign policy issues.

The EU idea of federalism is definitely no federalism of US kind. The US federalism was designed along Jeffersonian federal lines, with tendency to a small government, strong local authorities, strong private sphere, a limited welfare system and distrust of any social engineering. American notion of federalism argues for states‘ rights against the growing powers of the Federal Government, not the contrary. 

Many pre-conditions for the federal case are not met in the European Union. It goes completely the opposite way. EU federalism is in fact a continual transfer of powers from nation states to central institutions, it is an attempt to create centralised, unitary European state, based on 3 pillars: redistributive economy, leading to a very extensive welfare system and public expenditure, strong supranational institutions like EC or EP, but also paradoxically strong projection of national interests of some (!) big EU players via EU institutions and decision-making procedures. 

And one more thing behind that is also certain „imperial appetite“. EU leaders like the idea of creating global political power, they like the idea they can speak on behalf  of 500 millions inhabitants. 

2) US perception of the EU

There still is a lot of misunderstanding of European integration process amongst US political elites. The simpliest – and also the most simple-minded – reflection of European integration from US side – and from State Dept. in particular – is that the more united Europe is (whatever it means), the better for US. There is a popular mythology in the US about  EU, which says  that a unified Europe will actually reduce the burden of global leadership on the United States. United Europe, in this explanation, serves as a complementary force to US, not contradictory.

This is wrong perception. The purpose behind the EU’s drive for a separate political identity is rather focused on restraining American action on the world stage.  You can see a lot of hidden anti-American agenda in Brussels and in EU institutions. Some say that even the introduction and temporary rise of single currency – which is another unification tool – could be interpreted as European attempt to challenge USD as international reserve currency.

One example : 3 months ago, in the daily Die Welt, the German MEP from Ms. Merkel ‘s CDU, Elmar Brok, one of the most outspoken proponents of European federalism, claimed that the US has launched an economic war against Europe. He underpinned his argument by the following : The US rating agencies, he said, had no conceivable reason to downgrade 9 eurozone states (which happened in the middle of January this year). What this is really about is a political project aimed at advancing ‚Anglo-Saxon interests‘ in Europe. Funny ? It is not as I can give you more such examples.

To make long story short, the US political elites should stop their adherence to the idea of a European superstate and the holy grail of ever-closer union within the EU. They should think twice what really is in their interest.

3) Perspectives for different EU integration then federal one 

There are already theoretical descriptions of looser, less supranational, more intergovenmental European integration (some call in multispeed, flexible or variable geometry etc.).

Unfortunately, the EU establishment is not ready for that. It still continues to build „ever closer union“, even if the opinion gap between EU elites and their people is growing and widening. If people are allowed to have their say on some plans, they usually say NO. They said that in France, Netherlands or Ireland on various EU treaties. Euro-critical movements or parties are able to gain ground in national elections, i. e. Netherlands or Finland. I have already mentioned cases of France and Greece at the beginning. 

Interesting situation appears to be in Germany, undoubtedly the most pro-federalist and pro-integrationist EU state (for understandable reasons). It seems that public opinion is moving even there. You can find a lot of moderate, high-renowned intellectuals – economists, legal experts etc. – becoming gradually eurocritical and claiming that current EU model is not sustainable in the long-term. This is something new, as to be critical to the EU has always been considered in Germany as out of any serious political debate. It is not anymore the case. On one hand, you have Ms. Merkel, that stated several times that euro is worth to be saved for every price. On the other hand, you have her own compatriots, who do not share this view ( as some 71 percent of Germans have “little”, “low” or “no” confidence in the euro, according to a survey – Institute Allensbach opinion poll, published by the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung ). Seems that public demand for some political force that would articulate this changed mood, is ready even in Germany. The supply is not yet, but sooner or later it comes. If that happens we might see an earthquake on German political scene, followed by turnover on EU integration.

To conclude:

In short-term perspective, the political pressure for more integration will continue. In long-term perspective, it is not sustainable. The EU must change. It will be slow and gradual, but it will grow and strengthen. Then, sooner or later, some climax must come. The question is, of what nature it will be. Of course „evolutionary“ way would be much better, starting with repatriation of some EU powers back to nation states, creating more flexible EU, possibly even reducing eurozone to less states etc. We cannot expect this to be delivered from „old guard“ of EU politicians, new generation must arrive to deliver this. Other option is  the popular mood in Europe might turn to be explosive, even revolutionary. Then we can see much worse scenario, followed by a rise of old nationalist stereotypes. That is neither desired nor welcomed. 

Anyway, EU is to be hit by period of uncertainty, unpredictability, poor economic performance, poor political leadership for some time – until new equilibrium emerges and settles down. But the atmosphere for articulating alternative solutions for Europe is much better and favorable then ever before. If you are interested in Europe – and US thinkers, opinion leaders and policy makers should be – then my advice to you is as follows: pay attention to these alternative scenarios of EU integration, that bring up new paradigm and study them, work with politicians who are able to articulate it, from whatever country they are, as they are the most probable future generation of EU leaders, do not underestimate bilateral relations with individual EU countries, as nation states will play again more important role in the future, on the expense of EU institutions.

Thank you for your attention.