Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holland: 61.6 percent NEE

According to and their nearly final results, 61.6 percent (according to exit polls, 63 percent) of the Dutchmen have voted the EU constitution down in their consultative referendum. In other words, most of them were "TEGEN" the document and only 38.4 percent were "VOOR". Note that 94 percent of the Dutch Parliament supported the constitution. I think that these two facts already indicate that there is something wrong about the way how the current political elite in Europe "represents" the population.

Figure 1: Dutch cows vote "BOO".

The turnout about 62.8 percent was safely above the 30 percent level that was necessary for the politicians to accept it (and higher than the turnout during the last elections to the EU Parliament), and the victory was well above the 55 percent that were needed to define a "clear result".

The Dutchmen had different reasons to vote against the treaty from the French, and many (but not all) of them are closer to my opinions:
  • they don't want the other countries to ban marijuana, euthanasia, and public prostitution in the streets of Amsterdam and other cities
  • they are not happy about the economic developments in the last several years when Europe was strongly influencing the Netherlands, and they feel that the euro has damaged them
  • they don't like that the Dutchmen are the biggest payers per capita contributing to the EU budget
  • they don't want the rest of Europe to determine the Dutch immigration policies which would become almost inevitable under the constitution because many believe that their country is already full
  • as a smaller nation, they don't want to be controlled by the biggest nations of Europe, and the constitution reduces the relative influence of the Dutchmen compared to the treaty of Nice
  • they think that the unification has been too fast and too uncontrollable
There have been several factors why the victory of the "NEE" camp has been stronger than predicted - and two of them are related to the results in France:
  • the Dutchmen were not afraid to be the first nation of mavericks - the French have already shown that it is perfectly mainstream to vote "NON"
  • some supporters of the constitution stayed home because they have simply given up the process
What should happen now?

First of all, we should realize that although the situation is unexpected for many people in Europe - who have apparently assumed that the result of every referendum must be YES and there is no reason to even prepare for a NO - it is not a disaster. As Vaclav Klaus said, Europe has existed for 50 years without any constitution and it will continue for 50 more years without a constitution.

The responsible people in Europe should obey the law and the international treaties. According to some of these treaties, the EU constitution is now a dead document. No doubt, the integration process of the EU will be slowed down. It is very irresponsible if some politicians try to indicate that the clear results in Holland and France may be neglected or circumvented. Such an approach would contradict the law, and it would provoke even bigger violations of the law by the other side, and so forth.

I find it reasonable to save the money for the referenda in the other countries.

In a couple of years, I am confident that there will be another, less ambitious and much shorter document that may be acceptable for most citizens of every country of the EU - but no one should assume that the ratification is gonna be automatic or a formality. Such a document should be roughly 10 times shorter than the draft rejected by the French and the Dutch. It should not say anything about the economic and other policies. It should by default allow the nation-states to control their immigration, tax, social, and other policies, and many other policies that the authors of the draft wanted to move to Brussels - but such a move was found highly problematic by the voters - should stay in the nation-states. The system should be flexible enough so that every member should be able to exit some of the individual policies if the national parliaments - or the referenda - decide so.

Most importantly, there should now be a serious discussion about all these things - a discussion in which all opinions must be heard and all worries must be seriously addressed. Do we really want to decide about XY together? Is it a better or a worse option? Does the unified Europe strengthen or at least preserve democracy?


  1. It's been a sad week for Europe, but I don't think that this will kill the constitution, only delay things a little bit. I don't think people appreciate the importance of a european constitution. Most of them have some kind of diffuse fear of the unknown nad complaints about certain aspects of european politics (expansion). I don't think this justifies voting down a historic project like the european constitution. A united Europe is a historic idea we shouldn't mess with! Unfortunately, people are not always willing to distinguish between the big picture and localized (spatially or temporally) political or economical difficulties that are to be expected in the process of unifying 25 nations.
    In the end a united Europe is unavoidable. For example, it's the only way we can make our voice count again in world politics and effectively act as a balance to US foreign policy which is, I think, more tha n necessary these days.

  2. Dear Matthias,

    thanks for your comments although I can't agree with them.

    The unified Europe is arguably a big project indeed, but it does not say whether it is a good project or a bad project. The Roman Empire, the Soviet Union and the Third Reich have been great projects, too - but this does not yet imply that everyone should support all of them. Hearing that "we should not mess with" an idea because we should accept a dogma that it is a great project is not something that I would ever call a rational argument, and it does not reflect any approach to policymaking that deserves to be called democratic.

    Instead, my advice would be that you should not mess with the opinion of 63 percent of a founding nation of the EU how the future of their country and perhaps their continent should look like.

    My feeling has been that the discussion in the Netherlands has been rather deep and the people had pretty reasonable reasons why they voted how they voted. Very many people in the Netherlands have read the constitution.

    Sorry to say, but your separation to the "big" and "small" questions is exactly the opposite what I believe to be the right and meaningful approach to this question and similar questions. Indeed, the statement that the "big question" - the dogma of the ever closer union itself - is "smarter" than the detailed and thoughtful ideas of the Dutchmen (who carefully think about the causal relations between different decisions and their consequences) is not just arrogant: it is also dumb.

    Your "big question" that does not have to be justified is exactly what (unfortunately) a significant part of the current European political elite would like to become primary. It is a dogma about a "great project" that does not have to be justified by anything else. They know very well why it is a dogma for them. It's them who has a better access to the tools of politics - and a further integration allows them to get salaries from a bigger country, and travel around a larger Europe for the taxpayers' money - and reduce the ability of other citizens to control what they're doing especially because 90 percent of the EU citizens don't understand their language.

    But the life of a few Eurocrats should never become the primary thing. There are 450 millions of other people, too. Whether or not the ever closer European Union is a good project or not is determined by the question how it affects the people in the present and the citizens in the future. The structure of the governments should be just a small technicality. If the project increases the unemployment, slows down the GDP growth, threatens the national cultures and identities, and separates citizens from their representatives which makes the politicians less responsible, then it is not a good project regardless of dogmatic and vacuous "arguments" that someone offers to support the "big projects".

    Your last paragraph shows one of the real reasons why some people support the ever closer European Union: to direct the whole old continent against America. As you can expect, I am closer to the American values than to some European self-proclaimed "owners" of the "European idea" whose real goal is to attack the values of freedom and America as its natural current beacon - even though I would say it is Europe where the values have been really created in the first place. Indeed, if this rivality between the U.S. and the bloc including Germany and France would be the issue, I would prefer to join the American Union instead.

    You know, the democratic Czechoslovakia in the 1930s has had its own experiences. The military treaties with France and England turned out to be irrelevant when the ass*hole who was the British prime minister before Churchill argued that he would not start a war because of a nation that he did not know well. The French and the English betrayed us while, sorry to say, your country occupied us. It took Russians and Americans for us to regain freedom in 1945.

    It is hard for me to see why you think that the citizens of Europe would prefer to join a bloc designed by Germans, French, and few others that is intended to "act as a balance" against the U.S. Why is it better than to live freely in the world where the U.S. is the main superpower?

    I hope that the whole period in which Europe has been led by the people with anti-American sentiments will become a part of the history much like this bad constitution. I am optimistically convinced that the Europeans of the future will be truly free human beings who will never feel the need to attack America - because only people who are not quite free inside may feel the desire to "act as a balance to U.S. foreign policy". It's a completely secondary question what will be the relation between the individual countries of Europe - and I am convinced that in the next 50 years, it will still be individual countries in which the cultural heritage of the continent will be preserved (as opposed to scenarios in which everyone speaks the same language).

    It's been an important week for Europe. A week in which a huge gap between the political elite and the citizens of Europe has been identified, using the widely quoted words of Vaclav Klaus, and a week in which the first steps of a more constructive and more acceptable direction of the continent's political development have been made.

    All the best

  3. I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree with
    many of your arguments. Let me give you an example: Germany used to be divided into many small kingdoms, dukedoms etc. and they used to fight each other a lot. They haven't fought each other in a long time, if I remember correctly. So, preservation of peace is a very good argument for a united Europe.
    Comparing it with the Roman empire or the Third Reich is not a fair comparison (as you probably know very well). Also, I was talking about a balance (!) to US foreign policy, not being against the USA. I lived here for a while now and I like living here in many respects but I do NOT believe that it is a good idea to have just one superpower with the ability to do what they want. Checks and balances are very important for every democracy. This has nothing to do with anti-American sentiments.

    Why is it better than to live in a world freely where the U.S. is the main superpower? You can't be serious...when has this idea worked the last time, I mean, give somebody unlimited power and hope (or pray to God for that matter) that they will not misuse it? I'm sorry, but this seems awfully naive.
    I would never want to "attack the values of freedom and America as its natural current beacon", if it was even remotely true. Granted, that's what the American government and large parts of the media wants to make everybody believe...but does this make it true? I don't think so. But even if you believe it, wouldn't it be better to have yet another global player back on stage again who stands for the same values of freedom and democracy and peace. Checks and balances, again.
    (As a side remark: The status of democracy here in the states would be another topic worth discussing, but I'm not going into that right now.)
    The new Europe is also not about France and Germany taking over and dominating the
    rest of Europe. I don't quite understand what the British are afraid of.
    In my opinion, building a new, united Europe to preserve peace and justice throughout the world is a project for the generation of young Europeans who have been growing up 50 years after WW2, not directly influenced but still very much aware of it and its consequences.
    I'm convinced that the majority of "young"
    Europeans is for the European idea and for the European constitution. The fears and reservations of some older folks won't stop us.
    I acknowledge the outcome of the votes in France and the Netherlands, but the "no" sayers are by no means the majority in the EU.

  4. Dear Matthias,

    using the unification of Germany at the end of the 19th century and the years that immediately followed as an example of building peace does not sound terribly serious. My guess is that you are just joking and trying to be interesting and provocative, aren't you?

    The German dukedoms had had no major wars, and a huge percentage of the truly significant heroes of German history lived during the era of fragmented nation. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Ludwig van Beethoven - I hope that I don't have to continue.

    In 1871, some people decided to realize a great idea, namely to revive the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation (the First Reich), and create another big German Empire (the Second Reich). It's a prevailing opinion that the power and confusing alliances of this big German empire were the major reason behind the World War I unless you believe that the assassination of an unpopular and irrelevant young aristocrat was enough. Germans liked to "act as a balance" to other nations which has led to the War of Wars.

    Unfortunately, it did not work out for Germany - Germany was defeated in the First World War and it was very weakened. Then there was another great guy who had a similar great idea and wanted to unify all Germans in a bigger and more centralized country for all of his countrymates. This is also why he attached Austria to his unified empire. Austria was followed by the Sudetenland.

    The name of this bold guy was Adolf Hitler, and the second step of unification was followed by the Second World War. The great idea of unification of all German tribes has led to two worst conflicts in the history of humankind.

    60 years after the worst war ended, a German guy comes to my blog and uses the idea of a unified German empire as an excellent example for all of us, Europeans, how to build permanent peace. I really guess that you must be joking because your comments are so incredibly ridiculous that there is nothing else to say about them.

    "Also, I was talking about a balance (!) to US foreign policy..."

    I know, this is why I criticized you. Is it OK if some of us continue to prefer the US foreign policy over the German one? I know that Germany is different today, but I can't really erase the actual knowledge of history - and the experience in the last 500 years - when judging these questions.

    "Why is it better than to live in a world freely where the U.S. is the main superpower?"

    That's very simple. Because the U.S. is a country that is based on the values and ideas of freedom. It is because our experience in Europe is that the U.S. have never done anything to transform us into slaves, 2nd class citizens, or people subject to the final solution. For rational Europeans, the U.S. is a remote and inspiring country that has helped us much more often than it hurt us.

    Its main goal is not to impose unified opinions and ideologies over other nations.

    This is why the abstract global influence of the U.S. policy is better than very material and visible influence of German (and few other) politicians affecting the neighbors in Europe and forcing them to behave in a unified fashion (or be eliminated).

    "I'm convinced that the majority of "young" Europeans is for the European idea and for the European constitution."

    Well, it is conceivable although I don't have any data like that and I don't care because transforming this sensitive issue into a gap separating generations is really silly. Let me just say that the majority of young Germans also supported Hitler, so if you happened to think that the young people are always right, it would be hard to justify this viewpoint, too.

    Summary. The European Union is a great idea, but it has done its job. Most Europeans don't want further integration including the common foreign policy and president - and certainly not in the near future.

    All the best

  5. Mathhias,

    How is Euro going to counterbalance the US without a military? Lets be honest, Europeans just are not serious about what it would take to 'counterbalance the US'.

    In the real world Dictators are only interested in military might! To paraphrase Stalin, How many divisions does Europe have?

    The only plausible counterbalance to the US for the next 30 years is China.

    The European elites needs to go back to the drawing board and go back to basics like unemployment, growth and social decay.

    An Amateur mathematician

  6. I think a united Europe will be better off for its own and for the world peace. There were WWII and other wars between different European countries precisely because there were different countries and these countries are so different that they needed wars to resolve their differences.

    Had Europe be one country. Had Hitler been elected by the whole Europe, instead of just the majority of pure Arian race, then it would be unimagination that he would order one of his European provinces to attack another one of his provinces. Would your left hand attack your right hand?

    It's a dangerous world if the US is the only dorminate super power, un-checked. Such a world would be the breed ground for international terrorism because some people some where else in the world might feel terrorrism might be the only thing to counter-balance the US super power. What I say may be provocative but it is sad to say that's exactly what is happening today.

    We are losing the anti-terriorism war because we are the one who is brewing new terriorism!!! As long as a considerable portion of the world population admire Bin LaDen, new Bin Laden will be created every day. Only when the world is more balanced in power, will the world become more peaceful.


  7. Dear Quantoken, what you say is not only silly and perverse, but it is also internally inconsistent.

    You start by saying that the world would have been a much safer place if Hitler controlled the whole continent, but in the next paragraph you say, on the contrary, that the world is a very dangerous place if it only has one superpower, namely the U.S.

    "Would your left hand attack your right hand?"

    Definitely. In your hypothetical example, I would be fighting Hitler's regime with all tools I had.

  8. Hi Lubos,

    I think we are moving in circles here. I'm most definitely not joking, are you? I was using the example of German unification to show that there ever since was peace *in between* its constituents. Your response concerning WW1 and WW2 is interesting but totally out-of-context. We shouldn't switch topics randomly, but stick to the original context. It is because of our past that we must build a unified Europe to ensure that there won't be any more wars in Europe and to help bring peace to the rest of the world.
    It is not about the Germans once again trying to rule Europe, but I'm sure you know that, too. So I would recommend to stop calling it a German project, it's not. If you are afraid of the Germans, you should support a strong Europe!
    As far as the US is concerned:
    "Its main goal is not to impose unified opinions and ideologies over other nations"
    Where have you lived the past couple of years? Sorry, I'm not getting into this right now, it's also off-topic.
    You're right that the US is based on the values and ideas of freedom. This doesn't imply that it's always the guideline of politics made in this country and sometimes it's clearly not.

    But let me just repeat that I believe checks and balances are crucial (even for a "perfect" democracy like the US) and that there is nothing wrong with balances. Not in a Hitler/Stalin sense but rather in a free and peaceful world.

    Zelah, of course Europe will have its own military at some point. I don't think we need a huge military machinery like the American one. Rather we should have a smaller but modern force that is adopted to modern needs. As an aside, I find it pretty scary that so many people here just LOVE the military. For me (and many Europeans of my generation) military is a necessity we have to deal with, but nothing we particularly like; here in the States, however, it seems to be very common to really be into it.

    That China will play a huge role in the future is obvious, but I don't think communism will survive there forever.

  9. Dear Matthias,

    if you think that the murders of millions of Jews, communists, socialists, gays and others in the Nazi Germany justifies your statement that there was peace in between the different components of the German empire, you should not be surprised if someone labels you a holocaust denier.

    There was no peace inside these big empires. For example, the Protectorate Boehmen und Maehren was a part of the German empire, and the fact that there was officially no peace between this component and other parts of the German empires is proved by the observation that Czechoslovakia became a victorious country after the war while you were the losers (once again). Yes, we - the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia controlled by the Nazis - were in war with the rest of Germany, and a similar statement holds for other parts of the empire.

    Surely you don't believe that creating bigger empires implies more peace because such an opinion is just dumb. Creating bigger empires may imply that local tension is not relieved immediately because the big empires tend to dilute the local tension, but the same mechanism also implies that this tension can easily transmute into much bigger wars which has been the case many times.

    Yes, at this moment, I am not afraid by another German attempt to rule Europe. (We will see whether there is any reason to change the opinion once CDU/CSU replaces SPD next year.) Yes, these details have changed. But undoubtedly, I am afraid of a subset of European people trying to impose their opinions about many issues that are important for the life of the society upon all citizens of Europe. Yes, I am afraid that some politicians who happen to be closer to certain countries in the middle East than America want to use the rest of Europe as their additional arms, and your statements on my blog all but confirm these worries.

    "But let me just repeat that I believe checks and balances are crucial..."

    I don't know whether you do, but I definitely do believe that checks and balances are crucial. This is why I am happy that the politicians allowed these referenda that checked whether we were going the right direction, according to the citizens' counting, and the answer was No, No. And yes, indeed, I also consider balances against the tendency to unify Europe - and other fashionable trends - very important.

    Concerning military: neither of the current European powers seems to be a good condensation core for a military that could compete with America. Europe is simply a military dwarf at this moment. Of course it may change in the future but I just don't think that America is such a threat for Europe today that we should be building military with the goal of having a "balance" against America. I think that various threats near Europe and within Europe are much more dangerous, and this is where we should focus our eyes.

    All the best

  10. Lubos,

    your line of reasoning gets a liottle bit annoying! I respect you as a physicist, why don't you try to apply the same standard of arguing here. I am definitely NOT (!!!) a holocaust denier. That comment is just ridiculous. Try reading my comments more thoroughly. I'm not going to continue arguing with you on this level, this is totally unacceptable.

    "`But let me just repeat that I believe checks and balances are crucial...'

    I don't know whether you do, but I definitely do believe that checks and balances are crucial."
    Which part of the above sentence don't you understand?

    The word "empire" indicates that you haven't understood the whole concept of the EU.

    Concerning the military. Again, try reading my comment. It's not about competing with the USA or "balancing" *against* America (which doesn't make sense, by the way). It's about being able to act (e.g in Sudan or other regions of crisis) without having to rely on the Americans. It is not against the US. Repeating it, isn't gonna make it real.

  11. Granted that my example (Germany) was probably badly chosen, because it invites you to change the topic from the EU to WW2 and the Third Reich constantly. These are important factors that we should always remember, but your comparisons to the situation today are just not fair and politically motivated.

  12. Dear Matthias,

    as you correctly pointed out, it was you, not me, who introduced the analogy between the EU and the unified German empire into our discussion. Let me remind you that you proposed this comparison because you believe that the unification of the German dukedoms to a single German empire was a great idea that brought peace to the region, and Europe should apparently learn from this example.

    I think it is legitimate - and important - to study this comparison and similarities and differences between these two cases (and other cases from the history textbooks). This is why I constructively responded your analogy, and why I find it puzzling that you suddenly try to revoke your gedanken experiment.

    It was a completely fair gedanken experiment - the only problem is that if it is looked at carefully, it apparently does not support the viewpoints that you would like to see supported.

    You tried to argue that the only conflicts of the unified German empire were the external ones and there were no "internal" problems and wars. I insist that it is completely false. Every unified empire or union (or any country for that matter) has to suppress various internal tendencies that could threaten its existence. And I've told you many such examples about your particular case (German empire).

    Concerning your sentence

    "But let me just repeat that I believe checks and balances are crucial..."

    later I wrote "I don't know whether you do" because I frankly don't believe that you believe checks and balances are crucial. In the case of the European Union, you clearly believe that the unification process should not be slowed down by any checks and there should be no balances against the unification and the centralized power in Brussels.

    Concerning the word "empire", it is completely irrelevant whether one chooses this *word*. The word is definitely the right word when we discuss your example - the unification of German dukedoms to the German empire. The European Union does not use the word "empire" but rather "Union" (like the Soviet Union), but I don't really see how such a terminological difference can imply anything physical about our discussion how far the integration of Europe should go.

    I agree that Europe - or European countries - should become capable of dealing with military issues without the U.S. help (including Yugoslavia, you don't have to go as far as Sudan), and it's painful that it's not the case yet.

    All the best

  13. I used this example to make *a* point, not to construct an analogy between the EU and unified Germany, that's your addition to the discussion. I do think that unification is important for the reasons I mentioned, the opposite cleary makes no sense (should Texas leave the Union again?).

    "Every unified empire or union (or any country for that matter) has to suppress various internal tendencies that could threaten its existence."
    I am not aware of such tendencies in the US nowadays...of course it takes a while (one or two generations) before people who used to be of nationality X, feel that they now belong to Union Y, but it works.
    Sometimes it doesn't (I know which example you are going to tell me about), but it can work if people see the necessity, collectively benefit from it (in the long run) and it's a democratic process (which it is, after all). I predict that in maybe 50 or 100 years people in Europe are going to see themselves (politically) as Europeans and not so much as Germans, Spaniards etc. Culturally this will be (and should be) different. People should and will preserve their local identities, there is no reason to give it up in a united Europe.

    Nevertheless, the process of unification is very complicated and many mistakes have been and will be made. It's difficult for the "political elite" (which has been elected democratically) to explain these complicated matters to their respective people in a simple fashion. It's much easier to argue against it: You simply have to invoke certain fears people naturally have. All this should not distract us from the goal of building a peaceful Europe. And we should not allow technicalities and temporary flaws to halt the process. That's all I'm saying. The "No" votes of the French and the Dutch are not votes against Europe, they are merely signs of temporary fears and problems that can and will be resolved. The constitution is the next logic step to proceed.

    Empire to me sounds not very democratic,
    or can you name one democratic empire for me, please?
    Union instead is widely used (not only by the former Soviets).

  14. Hi Matthias,

    once again, I agree with you that the difference between Hitler's Germany and the current EU is large and striking and the results of many analogies can't be trusted. Once again, it was your example, not mine. Many of us are working hard to make Europe a great, free, prosperous, and democratic place for life. This is why we discuss these things here, and this is why the referendums were useful - to show what the people really want and what they don't.

    "Empire to me sounds not very democratic, or can you name one democratic empire for me, please?"

    Sure, for example the Empire state or the democratic empire called the EU, or the democratic empire defended by Churchill, or Russian federation which is a democratic empire. Among this list, the most perfectly democratic empire was probably the British empire.

    Concerning Texas, whether or not its membership in the Union is important for democracy, I have no opinion about that. Texans are very proud about their state - incidentally, their Capitol is bigger than one in Washington, DC. ;-)

    "I am not aware of such tendencies in the US nowadays..."

    This is why the U.S. are a pretty good example of a large country that I am not particularly afraid of, unlike you. But be sure that Americans had to impose the things I was discussing before the U.S. became a stable country - for example during the civil war.

    It is conceivable that if you want to create a country as uniform and as stable as the U.S. today, you will have to go through the equivalents of the civil war etc. It's just not guaranteed that things go smoothly and only naive people can think that they will.

    All the best

  15. Hey Lubos,

    your latently anti-German, and sometimes anti-European, sentiment reveals that your political opinion and world view is not one that adheres to principles. In fact, you are quite inconsistent.

    You want a weak Germany, but a strong Czech republic. You see the advantages in a strong America, but are unwilling to give Europe a chance to contribute to freedom in the world. The inconsistency in your opinion is most obvious when you tolerate the red-green government in Germany, because you want Germany to be weak, but critcize everything they stand for (Kyoto, pacifism, socialism,...). In one word, you have never understood the difference between the Third Reich and the Federal Republic of Germany. You appear as a narrow-minded Czech patriot, who wants to be a great American. You know, you can be either, but not both. Make up your mind!

    The Czech republic's best chance is to grow with Europe. A sluggish Germany will doom the Czechs' hopes.

    I respect very much your opinion when you talk about American politics, but as far as Europe, you are severly confused. Maybe it's not confused, but traumatized? If so, I feel sorry, but while they may be excused, traumatized people talk a lot of bull.


  16. OK, let's see: Empire, usually comes with an emperor...doesn't sound very democratic.
    Complicated as it may be, I hope it won't take a civil war to establish a united Europe.
    Anyway, let me clarify that I am not afraid of the US. As I said in one of the first comments, I like living here (a lot at times). This doesn't mean that I think everything is perfect though. It can't be.
    The picture you are communicating is an illusion, would be nice if it was true, but unfortunately it's not. Nevertheless, there is no reason for Europeans to be afraid of the US and vice versa. Ultimately, many of us share the same goals and visions. I may not like present day American politics (thanks, Dubya), but I surely like many Americans.

  17. Dear Larry,

    "In fact, you are quite inconsistent. You want a weak Germany, but a strong Czech republic."

    I don't know what's exactly inconsistent about a weak Germany combined with a strong Czechia. It would be inconsistent if the Czech Republic were the same thing as Germany. ;-) It's not. I am Czech - and not so surprisingly, I kind of support a strong Czech Republic and I don't care about the German strength so much. I have German friends, respect the achievements of that great nation, and care about their present lives as much as I care about the lives of other human beings - but the idea that Germany as a country should be my primary concern is simply naive, and people outside Germany who say similar things display hypocrisy, to say the least.

    Your statement that my approach is inconsistent is based on the conjecture that the member of a nation XY finds it equally important whether the nation XY as well as a completely different nation UV is strong. Such an assumption is, however, a complete rubbish that has nothing to do with reality. Of course that my nation plays a different role in my political desires and goals than other nations. If someone wants to create a European Union or any other union where the assumption is valid, then he or she must be ready that I, as well as most other Europeans, will oppose these political plans that contradict the very basic laws of natural behavior of the people and their cultural heritage.

    "You want weak Germany and strong America."

    Not really, strong Germany is O.K. with me under certain circumstances and I am able to admire it. However: The strong America vs. weak Germany is just an observation of current reality, especially if one considers the military and political influence. Anyone who has at least an elementary sense of reality knows that. I find it useless to think in terms of a speculative world in which Germany is stronger than America - such a world has simply nothing to do with the present and with the foreseeable future.

    On the other hand, Germany might become strong enough to control many aspects of the Czech life. While it's great that the Germans are doing a lot of useful business in Czechia and elsewhere, I don't support a development in which the influence goes beyond business.

    "The inconsistency in your opinion is most obvious when you tolerate the red-green government in Germany, because you want Germany to be weak, but critcize everything they stand for (Kyoto, pacifism, socialism,...)."

    Once again, I don't know what's exactly inconsistent about it. Yes, I prefer a more peaceful and, in this sense, weaker Germany because it is a smaller threat for the Czech Republic and others. And to some extent, I support counterproductive policies including the Kyoto to affect German economy because the state of German economy is not something that directly influences (at least not positively) and the Germans have the right to decide about their economy.

    This is why I am a bit happier if the SPD/Green coalition is in charge of Germany because it makes Germany more peaceful and less able to behave aggressively. Moreover, CDU/CSU is rather unattractive for me because of other reasons, too. It's not just their support for weird demands of the Sudetendeutschen Landsmannschaft (especially CSU). They have strange opinions about other issues, too.

    Incidentally, much like others I have tried the Political Compass. My results were almost exactly in the middle of their two-dimensional political map - although slightly in the neo-liberal/libertarian quadrant - and Gerhard Schroeder was the closest person of mine in the two-dimensional space, although he was in a different quadrant. So don't be surprised that I view him pretty favorably.

    "You appear as a narrow-minded Czech patriot, who wants to be a great American."

    I never wanted to be American - it is absolutely unclear why you think that I want to be an American. It was never my plan to live here permanently. I am not ashamed of being labeled as a "Czech patriot", and I don't feel any need to disprove the adjective "narrow-minded" because you know very well that this adjective is a complete nonsense anyway, so why should I try to disprove it.

    "The Czech republic's best chance is to grow with Europe. A sluggish Germany will doom the Czechs' hopes."

    Well, this was exactly the Nazi propaganda that was used after Hitler occupied the Czech lands in 1939. This opinion of yours is most likely a result of ignorance of foreigners about the history and geography of central Europe - and I have understanding for your ignorance because the U.S. education about these issues is weak indeed. One must usually be impressed if an American knows what the words "Czech Republic" mean, but expecting that someone would understand the subtle relations between the nations of Central Europe would be too much.

    Just to make the things clear: before the war, Czechoslovakia has been a prosperous and technologically advanced democratic country embedded in the ocean of undemocratic and underdeveloped countries. The claim that its system and prosperity depends on the status of some larger neighbors is a misunderstanding of history and reality. The main problem with Czechoslovakia was that it had unreliable allies at that time - France and England. I believe that the Munich would not happen again. In May 2005, George W. Bush declared clearly that some of the developments in Europe were partly caused by the passivity of America (and others) because the freedom of certain smaller nations did not matter much. Today it does matter much. Germany is peaceful enough nation so that its neighbors may develop independently of the fate of Germany.

    I am confident that if a new Hitler wanted to invade the Czech Republic today, America would help.

    Modestly speaking, it would be reasonable if you realized that my knowledge about the history of Central Europe is probably better than yours by a significant factor (correct me if I'm wrong), and one can't really expect that your contributions to this discussion will be too valuable, relevant, and deep. But thanks for them anyway.

    All the best

  18. Dear Matthias,

    an empire usually comes with an emperor, but as the example of the British empire shows, it can still be one of the most democratic countries in the world. It's great that I can see that your last comment is otherwise OK with me.

    All the best

  19. Hey Lubos,

    If I have to explain to you that a strong German economy is vital to Czechia's chances of becoming prosperous, I'll give up right here.

    Why do I think your position is inconsistent? Because it is not built on principle. You piece together different particular interests, you use one scale here, another there, and you do not keep in mind the larger picture.

    Let me make an example. The desire to bring freedom to the Middle East, the willingness of facing competition by Northern and Central American neighbors (NAFTA&CAFTA), these are examples of policies guided by principles. Fundamental values that ensure quality of life in America will help improve the situation even in places as messed up as the Middle East, believes the American president. This strong and steady approach of conviction is in sharp contrast to what you believe and say. You are "able to admire" Germany, but you hate its guts. You know that you need the strong neighbor, but please don't be too strong, or only "under certain circumstances". Rather than hoping that Europe will abide by the rules of liberty and peace while growing as strong as possible, you make certain assumptions of that not being possible and come up with some half-assed -- and, yes, inconsistent -- ideas of where we should be headed.

    Let me make a friendly suggestion: Why don't you make up your mind which principles you think provide the best hope for mankind and apply them consistently everywhere?

    Your assumption that I don't know anything about Europe is arrogant. Your attempt of discrediting my opinion forces me to mention that I am a German-American and have lived the first 25 years of my life in Germany. Trust me, I know more about German politics than you do. Among other things I am a pretty active member of the FDP, though it's more difficult to be active now that I live in Boston...

    You complain about the CSU minding German interests? How about the criminal methods the Czech communists have used on innocent German civilians who happened to live on Czech soil after WWII?

    The Czech government refuses to this date to acknowledge the unlawfulness of the Beneš-decrees -- a blatant injustice! I don't know why the Czechs got a free pass on this in becoming an EU member.

    Sure, Germany caused more harm than any other nation in the 40s, but does it give Czech authorities the right to violate peoples' rights based on nationality as soon as they can? I hope you agree that this question is rethorical. The CSU may have said weird things, but they haven't lied about their past like the Czech government, have they? At least, Germans have come to terms with the reality of their history.

    Best wishes,

  20. Dear Larry from FDP (which I would otherwise like!), ;-)

    the Czech Republic is currently exporting a lot to Germany and vice versa and there is a huge amount of constructive co-operation between the two countries, but you can't explain me that the German prosperity is *necessary* for the Czech prosperity because it is simply not true.

    The only reason why you apparently think that it is true is that your resolution is not good enough anymore to distinguish the individual countries of Europe. You have lost contact with the European reality.

    During communism, Czechoslovakia was, together with DDR, the most industrialized country of the Soviet bloc even though the trade with Germany formed a very small fraction of the overall trade. The Soviet Union was, of course, much more important. With the fall of the Soviet Union, new partners had to be found (which was hard), and naturally, Germany as an economically stronger neighbor became the most important one. If Germany collapsed and the Czech Republic survived, the Czech Republic would have to find new partners again. Note that with the current momentum, such a scenario is not completely inconceivable.

    Once again, you think that the Czech prosperity is impossible without the German prosperity today because you are only willing or capable to view Europe as a uniform area described by a single number - and this is apparently not enough to reach conclusions that the Europeans could consider to be reasonable. What you say is an uneducated guess.

    You also don't seem to understand that various types of competition relations and rivalry exist between many pairs of European countries. This includes, for example, the Netherlands and Germany, even though these two nations are very similar. The overall development of Europe was correlated, but only a complete ignorant (or, politically correctly speaking, a person who did not need to learn the history of Europe) might think that it has been uniform. Different countries of Europe have different cultures but also different political cycles and different amount of the GDP growth and other quantities.

    If you wanted to defend one of these naive viewpoints that assume that Europe is a homogeneous area, those ideas that I consider to be a symptom of limited knowledge, then it would indeed be better if you give up! ;-) In fact, I strongly encourage you to give up.

    Concerning your accusation of "inconsistency". Please accept my apologies, but your comments are naive. My principles are universal (and these principles say how the ideal laws and justice should look like), but my politically flavored desires, plans, and goals are, of course, also influenced my interests which are not universal. Only a liar could claim that it is not his case.

    If everyone were deciding important questions using general principles only, the CEO of the Coca Cola company would obviously had to help the friends in Pepsi so that they become equally strong which is fair and based on principles. Every ice-hockey match would end up with a tie.

    But the world would not work if a significant fraction of people and companies would behave or even think in this way. Of course that in the decision-making process of any rational human being, the human being herself will play an asymmetric role with respect to others! If you don't understand this, then it is indeed better for both of us to give up and it is better for you to quit FDP and join PDS unless they find you too extreme.

    One of the reasons for the existence of different companies, nations, species, countries, sport teams etc. is to compete with others. This is one of the necessary mechanisms behind any progress.

    Concerning the "innocent German citizens": I assure you that the Czechoslovak law guaranteed that the anti-Nazi German Czechs could stay in the country as full 1st class citizens and tens of thousands of them indeed did stay. The Beneš decrees only applied to those citizens who committed treason - well, it happened to have been about 90 percent of the German population in the Sudetenland.

    The particular number more or less comes from the election results and it counts the support for Henlein, Hitler's close ally in Czechoslovakia, whose goal (successful for 6 years) was to destroy Czechoslovakia and introduce a new regime to the territory that violates human rights in a drastic way.

    The expulsion of these Germans was a direct result of the World War II that was started and lost by Germany (as Schröder and others happily admit today), supported by the allies at the Potsdam conference. Only a complete ignorant can say that the expulsion was done by the communists. For example, Beneš was no communist. He was a true democrat and intellectual who was just unlucky enough that he had to see how Czechoslovakia was taken by the Nazis and later, after the war, by the communists. Most of the Czechs like Masaryk, the president-founder, more than Beneš, but still, Beneš was a very fair democratic president at the time when your homeland was controlled by Hitler.

    The expulsion was done by (then) the democratic forces in Czechoslovakia (yes, it included the communists) and in these special circumstances, it was the only doable way how to punish a large number of people for their crimes and create a stable country. It was simply impossible to start trials against all the individuals who had done something really wrong before and during the World War II.

    I am very unhappy if a truly innocent German was ever killed or injured during the transfer, but I know very well that a solution of this kind was kind of necessary and the originators of all these sad events were (most) Germans. Please understand that bad decisions can lead to bad consequences. Today, we would not repeat similar things again, I hope, but at that time, it was the only plausible reaction to the sad events that preceded the transfer.

    And it is important to keep the Beneš decrees unless we want to return to the World War II and try to revise its results and continue fights - and threaten the property rights of tens of thousands of Czechs who have been living in the borderland for 60 years.

    The communists only came to power 3 years after the expulsion. Please learn these completely rudimentary facts about our common history. Thanks. ;-)

    All the best

  21. Larry, ein more provoking comment.

    Your idea that the Tschechische prosperity *depends* on the Deutsch prosperity mimics the identical opinion of the friends of the big German Empire who believed that their nation was superior.

    I would appreciate if you tried to live with the fact that Germany is just one of many countries (and nations) in Europe and it is not superior in any fundamental and permanent way. It has had a great history and contributed great things to the humankind and the Western civilization - but on the other hand, don't forget that it has lost two world wars so far and economically, it is currently the sick man of Europe.

    So I encourage you to believe that it is possible that the Czech prosperity is possible even if German economy collapses. Be sure that the Czech Republic is not the only place where the citizens are not thrilled if someone tells them that another nation is destined to be permanently superior.

    Danke sehr.

    All the best

  22. Hi Lubos,

    I can understand that you are seeking refuge in polemic exaggerations after your unsuccessful personal attack on me. You know, there is a difference between the concept of liberty as it might be outlined in the constitution of the United States on the one hand, and Coca Cola's company policies on the other.

    You think my resolution is too coarse? Spain has become the 7th largest economy in the world in a short time because of the massive aid and influence of the EU. The fact that there are inhomogeneities and rivalries within Europe does not contradict the existence of common ground and common values. The latter are under- and misrepresented in your opinions. You are just a lobbyist for the Czech special interest.

    Do you think I like that vanitous Spanish socialist who became prime minister with the direct help of Al Qaida? Well, I don't, but it doesn't compromise my wish that Spain may continue to prosper as part of the EU.

    I know you are likely too proud to admit it, but finding partners to replace Germany, if need be, is going to be a lot more than difficult. Incidentally, never fear, Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Gehrhard (her likely vice-chancellor) are going to fix things beginning this September.

    You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts: The most controversial decrees were issued in a period lasting until October 26, 1945 with a strong influence of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. OK, no parliament was formed yet, but the will of the government was implemented by decrees of president. That is, decrees were created by the government and Edvard Beneš only signed them. As a self-procaimed expert, you should feel free to update your flawed knowledge of our common history.

    As a German, I do not want any property returned, and neither do German representatives such as CSU officials. Just the acknowledgement that injustice was done is necessary for a good new friendship. Much like France demands that Turkey acknowledge the Armenian Genocide of 1915-16, the Czech republic should have the guts and honesty to say the truth about their own wrong doings.

    It is truly upsetting that a smart Czech citizen like yourself covers up for their government by claiming that it was lawful and right to strip 90% (!) of Czech and Polish Germans of their properties and homes. What is your estimate how many of them committed acts of treason? The burden of proof was reversed in a perverse way. You should be ashamed to argue against these widely known, and frankly obvious, facts. Your fake concern for the supposedly few truly innocent German victims and the vague hint that "bad decisions can lead to bad consequences" are no excuse for lying. Rather, it is a sign of the political immaturity of the Czech republic as of today. (Forgive me for equating you with your country, but you are such an *orthodox* Czech citizen.)

    I'd like to add that I have been all for Czechia becoming an EU member ASAP. But part of the process has been truly disappointing. Hopefully Czechia can grow up soon and become a better friend. As an outstanding individual from that country, why don't you shape your attitude and conviction to a somewhat more presentable level?

    Best wishes,

  23. Dear Larry,

    liberty is something very different than German prosperity, and I encourage you to distinguish these two things.

    Special interests. What I defend here are general values. It is you who promotes special interests of Germany that has the right, as you think, to be prosperous every time one of its smaller neighbors is prosperous. No, sorry, but this won't work for you today. Germany is just one country in Europe and it can be doing better or worse than others, much like South Africa or Ethiopia may be doing better or worse than other countries in Africa.

    Spain has been helped by the European Union, which is incidentally why it voted YES. Ireland used to be a Celtic Tiger, but it is less certain that they would also vote YES. Other countries in the EU such as the Netherlands were paying for this progress elsewhere which is one of the reasons why they said NO. In a third group of countries, such as Greece, the economic miracle did not occur, and so on. Today in the Czech Republic, the polls showed that the NO camp - led by the President - is stronger for the first time.

    I don't believe that the European nations have so many common values that go beyond the common values that they also share with America, Australia, perhaps even Latin America, Asia, Africa, and everyone else.

    Yes, Merkel is most likely gonne replace Schröder this September. Sorry if I wrote a wrong number somewhere, it was a typo. If I wrote "next year", it meant "academic year".

    Of course that the communists played an important role in directing the decrees. They have also played an important role in the resistance against the Nazi regime, and be sure that although an anticommunist, I would have supported this resistance, too. It's a very cheap attempt of you to connect decisions that you don't like with the communists. But they were decisions of the whole anti-Nazi bloc. It's just a fact that the communists - and Stalin's Soviet Union - played an important role in defeating the Nazis.

    I agree that Zapatero et al. came to the top with the help of Al Qaeda - and that despite their guilt, their government is unlikely to bring Spain into a crisis.

    I am not gonna join your more personal attacks because this would mean to join a very dumb discussion.

    Thank you for defending the speedy Czech and Slovak membership in the EU, but as I watch your opinion, it seems less reasonable to think that there is anything to thank about. If you thought that merging with these new members would bring new Lebensraum for Germany and that the new nations would be ćonfirming your sick conjecture that the Germans are the master nation whose prosperity is necessary for the prosperity of others, then you were apparently wrong, weren't you?

    Our membership in the EU has been a completely natural manifestation of our history as well as current cultural values. In reality, we've been always a part of Europe. And the very formal membership that started in 2004 did not bring anything special to Central Europe. Life continues as before.

    All the best

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  25. I have a question and a comment.

    The question is whether the murder of Theo van Gogh played into the surprising final vote tally in some form, say by heightening concerns over immigration.

    The comment is regarding the arguments that one must vote yes to have a counterbalance to the US. Europe that defines itself merely by opposition to the US has no chance and no future. It has to get its internal setup right first. I may have seen it in Le Monde (or elsewhere) during the last US elections that the French political elites were quietly hoping that Bush's reelection will help sell the EU constitution through fear of the US. It appears that the French electorate has proven sophisticated enough to realize that their real interests should come first.

  26. Hi Dave,

    I think that the van Gogh murder heightened awareness of the cultural and religious identity of the European population. In so far as the political elite has ignored that a majority is concerned about issues such as Turkey's membership wishes, I think your proposition is plausible.

    Also, it didn't exactly help that some new members of the EU voiced quite aggressive and anti-mainstream opinions. For example, Czech president Vaclav Klaus said he was for a maximal extension of the EU, quote: "Turkey, Morocco, Ukraine, Kazakhstan - the more the merrier". If you ask me, this opinion is nothing short of bizarre.

    Except for the far left-wing Europeans -- and yes, they are quite numerous -- most Europeans seem to think that Europe should be a strong ally and partner to the US, not an oponent or counter-weight. The likely next foreign minister of Germany, Wolfgang Gehrhard, has made it his #1 priority to repair relations with the US and return to the true friedship that had existed for decades before the current completely inept leadership. Just think about this: The current foeign-minister (equivalent to Secretary of State) of Germany, Joschka Fischer, flunked High School, never graduated from anything, is on record with shop-lifting and beating up police officers during radical left-wing riots in the 70s...


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  28. "In a couple of years, I am confident that there will be another, less ambitious and much shorter document ..." This is a less probable outcome.

    A couple of saving attempts are likely. So far 2 out of the 12 nations that has voted, voted against. EU has had several excemptions earlier. 2007 new agreements needs to be in place or EU can't accept all states that want to join.

    Perhaps if it simply referred to the UN statues that it's partly based on instead of repeating and extending.

    I agree with posters that noted that democratic nation states have made internal (as well as external) wars virtually non-existent, and that EU and China may some day balance US politically, perhaps until UN may become an effective organisation; that balance may be by partnerships.

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  30. Matthias' speculations - that the young voted YES and the old voted NO - were completely wrong in France, see Guardian.

    Among those between 18 and 29 years in France, 62 percent voted NON - the clearest majority in any age range.