Us and the EU…


Such could be the summary of a debate started late on Friday afternoon by the moderator Petr Blažek. Addressing one of the book fair's focal themes, the 20th century, overlapping in this case well into the present, his guests included Alexandr Vondra, Michael Žantovský, director of the Polish Institute and political scientist Maciej Ruczaj, and the economist Tomáš Sedláček. 

The first topic up for discussion was the somewhat obscure act in which the chairman of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled a monumental statue of Karl Marx in the German city of Trier, a gift from the Chinese communists on the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. Alexander Vondra sees this as the starkest possible contrast to the mission and philosophy of the European Union. Michael Žantovský described Junker's speech as scandalous and a huge warning, reminding the audience that Marx's Communist Manifesto explicitly uses the word 'violence' in describing legitimate means of political struggle. Maciej Ruczaj added that the EU's political spectrum as a whole is steered by the sentiments of the year 1968 in Western Europe and pays absolutely no attention to our totalitarian experience. The guests then focused on the rifts in EU's contemporary foreign policy. They see it as expressing the Central and Eastern European experience with Soviet totalitarian rule and the resulting more than twenty years of dictated anti-Israel tendencies on the one hand, while on the other hand the populations of the Central European region do not share the post-colonial trauma of the big western countries, and even have some experiences running contrary to this. But even in this field oversimplification would be dangerous - Maciej Ruczaj, for example, compared the pro-Russian attitudes in the Czech Republic and the completely different situation in Poland, in which such stance would be unimaginable. The economist Tomáš Sedláček spoke out firmly against Euroscepticism. "Comparing the EU to the COMECON or the Soviet Union is totally deluded. Remember what happened when Hungary wanted to stand on its own feet in the 1950s and when Great Britain left the EU of its own free accord."
In the end, EU's positive influence prevailed in the debate, even though the bloc is experiencing a crisis period, which must be solved by other means than directive guidelines that would only make it worse.