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Czechia and Treaty of Lisbon

Sorry for the moderation here - two+ days of canoeing. Enjoy the weekend and see you!

The United Kingdom decided to continue in the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. In fact, their Parliament has already ratified it and the U.K. became the 19th country that has done so. However, Gordon Brown has put the ratification on hold despite the vote because of a new legal hurdle - an active lawsuit that it was illegal not to have a referendum on the issue.

The British Parliamentary approach doesn't seem particularly sensible given the fact that 27 countries need to agree with the treaty and Ireland has already rejected it. But it seems that some people want the referendum to be understood as a kind of optical illusion or a quantum fluctuation ;-) that can and should be ignored.

Incidentally, the Treaty of Lisbon is a 487-page update of previous rather convoluted texts (see 287-page diff). It also contains a verse that the EU must fight against climate change - a very similar comment to the propositions about the "leading role of the communist party and the ideology of Marxism and Leninism" in our previous communist constitutions. I am afraid that even if this verse were the only bug of the proposed treaty, and it is very far from being the only one, it would already be too much of a problem.

Such serious, politically extreme comments that make it into constitutions, the most important laws of countries, are always a problem. The constitutional communist priority was one of the main legal reasons why democracy couldn't be restored in Czechoslovakia for 41 years and the alarmist comment about the climate could make it impossible for climate realism to thrive in the EU for additional 41 years .

Ireland: the new politically incorrect nation

Others have suggested that Ireland may be forced to leave the EU because of the referendum. From a legal viewpoint, that's an amusing attitude. Ireland is one of the most pro-European members of the union and the result of their referendum - the only referendum that took place about this question - only reflects the opinion of a large percentage of the EU nations and their citizens, as opposed to the politicians who receive funds from the EU. It has nothing to do with the Irish nation per se. The only special feature of Ireland was that their laws required a referendum.

The majority of the Irish voters only decided to respect the legal status quo in the EU. It is thus very strange if some other people who want to replace the current rules by some currently illegal mutations claim that Ireland, one of the few countries that obey the EU rules, should be "fired". ;-)

The Irish "No" is no crisis: it is an answer to one question that was asked, a democratic routine. As Petr Mach of CEP correctly says, the true crisis would be if Europe couldn't live with results of democratic referenda and needed the Parliaments to bully "inconvenient nations" such as Ireland.

By the way, the Irish "No" has been "blamed" upon the British commissioner for trade by Nicolas Sarkozy (because the Englishman dares to dislike subsidies!). Peter Mendelson is also responsible for starving children across the world! ;-)

Enlargement vs Treaty of Lisbon

There are other bizarre opinions that various European politically confused big shots as well as charlatans promote all over the place. For example, one half of the EU politicians, unfortunately including Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, seem to think that without the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU cannot accept new members.

I don't exactly know what is the rational justification of their strange opinion. But I know how to falsify it: for example, among the 27 members, 12 states of the EU (44.44%) were recently accepted under the same Treaty of Nice that is going to continue after the death of the Treaty of Lisbon. So if you think it is impossible to enlarge the EU under the existing system, I am afraid that you have already been proven wrong.

By the way, the Treaty of Nice has explicitly thought about the possible future number of members exceeding 27. The only "qualitative" difference is that not every country will have an EU commissioner at every moment. Well, I don't think that our (one) commissioner is too relevant, anyway, so it wouldn't hurt that much. Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty clearly has to "solve" this problem in some way, too: it wants the commission to drop directly from 27 to 18 ministers. Is one of the treaties superior? Why?

Unless the "No Lisbon, no enlargement" cliché is meant is an irrational method to blackmail others, a method to use Croatian and other ambitions to join the EU as hostages. In that case, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel themselves would be the obstacles to enlargement: the current system and the Irish voters are not the obstacles. Well, I definitely want brotherly countries like Croatia to join but if it meant that the current members would have to uncritically accept all kinds of new and problematic rules, then I would agree that "No Lisbon, even if it means no enlargement". Sorry, friends in Croatia: the membership is not such a big deal! ;-)

Czechia and the treaty

Much like in Ireland, the question of usefulness of the Treaty of Lisbon is a controversial question in Czechia, too. In fact, Czechia is viewed as a more serious threat because it is only the voters who disagree with the treaty in Ireland and voters are irrelevant and can be pissed upon. In Czechia, however, the voters have made it into the Parliament and the government, too. :-)

The Czech senate ordered the Czech Constitutional Court to see whether the treaty is compatible with the Czech constitution. The verdict is expected in September or October but the court couldn't have begun yet because the treaty actually doesn't seem to exist on paper!

More precisely, there exists no official Czech translation of the treaty. You shouldn't blame the EU because it is indeed nontrivial to translate (or read) such a 500-page dinosaur. There exist two unofficial, samizdat translations of the treaty but according to the rules of the court, they are unacceptable as documents to be used in the court proceedings. The EU hasn't offered us its official translation and it doesn't want to be responsible for the unofficial ones.

When these amusing hurdles are overcome, I guess (but I am not quite sure) that the court must conclude that the treaty is incompatible with the Czech constitution. In fact, I think that it is obviously incompatible and it is incompatible in many other countries, too. But in other countries such as Ireland, they have actually worked on this question. So the Treaty of Lisbon included an amendment of the Irish constitution - and this amendment was a part of the question in their referendum.

As far as I understand, no champion of the Treaty of Lisbon in the Czech Republic has even come to the idea that it was necessary to design the appropriate amendments of the Czech constitution. And of course, the opponents of the treaty are unlikely to do this job even if they know that it is probably necessary. ;-) Prime minister Topolánek "wouldn't bet CZK 100 or USD 6.50" that the treaty would be approved in the Czech parliament today.

A few hours later, Topolánek changed his mind and said that he could bet CZK 100 on "Yes" because he could afford to lose such a small amount of money. ;-)

Czechia as a hurdle

Today, the EU decided to continue with the ratification process but because the union was able to notice that the Czech Republic doesn't agree with this attitude (the prime minister says that a pressure on the remaining countries would be both inappropriate and counterproductive while the president is of course strictly against the treaty), my country was officially listed as an exception where the ratification process is allowed to be suspended while others continue to be excited with this magnificent project. ;-)

Many of the headlines and comments about this event are rather amusing:

The first headline talks about some pressure. I guess that the Czech politicians in 1415, 1621, 1938, 1948, and 1968 were used to somewhat stronger pressure (from Roman Catholic Church, Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, Daladier, Stalin, Brezhnev, and their collaborators, including defenestrations, executions, and threats of extermination of the Czech nation) than the current Lisbon pressure on Topolánek, Schwarzenberg, et al. - by several orders of magnitude. :-)

But for the journalistic sissies, it is already a "pressure" to be hinted that your attitude is not the most politically correct attitude in Europe!

The second and third headline - and many others - clearly adopt the "journalistically neutral" attitude that it is a great thing to ratify the treaty and everything that makes is harder is a "difficulty". Well, I don't think that the arguments (and thinking) about the treaty would be viewed as "difficulties" in the Czech Republic. It is more likely that the treaty itself is a difficulty. Painfully enough, the Chinese media seem to use more balanced headlines: EU postpones decision on Lisbon Treaty, accommodates Czech concerns.

There are many other biased headlines of this type, e.g. Czechs cast shadow... Well, I think that our guys finally shed some light at the summit! ;-)

Concerning the third headline (BBC), Czechs are not really used to "bucking the system". Czechs have been pretty much the most loyal, peaceful, pragmatic, and problem-free nation (among the non-ruling nations) in the Austrian empire, the Third Reich, as well as the Soviet bloc. Even Švejk was a "good soldier". What do you think that the adjective means?

Many Czechs have often had reservations about the system - and we were making peaceful jokes to lighten up our lives - but there were good reasons for that. We haven't controlled either of the empires above. I don't think we have a tradition of "resisting authority". What we have is a tradition of pragmatic (and sometimes cowardly) choices when it is necessary to "resist authority".

Moreover, I don't think that the people who support the Treaty of Lisbon are any more "authority" than our politicians. Look at the picture of the French and Czech prime ministers to realize that in some sense, there are friendly relationships between two equally large peers, especially Topolánek. ;-)

Some of the European politicians literally behave as small kids who are being stolen a favorite toy.

For example, Belgian secretary of state, Olivier Chastel, said that the Czechs were "not willing to listen to reason". Well, I was not told about the exact reasoning of this Gentleman but given his position, his comment is funny, anyway. I am inclined to believe that from his point of view of a Belgian official, it is reasonable for Brussels to control the lives of all Europeans. But I am less certain that everyone else, including people outside Belgium, must find it equally reasonable. ;-)

Well, if you formulate it in this way, some of them may be even unwilling to listen to this new kind of reason. :-)

Automatic politically correct synergy

Much like many other laws and regulations, this treaty is a good example of a politically correct "hooray action" that everyone - or every good human in the world - is automatically expected to approve. Do they (those excessively abundant, homogenized Eurofanatic politicians) really expect that everyone is going to be happy with such an incomprehensible, 500-page treaty that no one can fully grasp and that effectively allows Brussels to control many kinds of aspects of our lives without good feedback mechanisms?

And if they really do, why?

If they don't believe it and if they only want to neglect what people actually think and how the treaty will influence the lives of those who are not paid, directly or indirectly, as officials from the EU budget, then it is a scary testimony about the corrupt, parasitic, and non-democratic nature of the present union.

If they do actually believe it, then their belief is a reflection of a breathtaking naivite that should be too much even for the chairman of a class at an elementary school.

Whenever there is a question whether nations or territories should be more unified or less unified, i.e. whether the governments should be more centralized or less centralized, it is always guaranteed that there will exist dramatically different opinions about such a question. The most obvious reason is that some people will gain and others will lose by such a newly proposed arrangement.

Nevertheless, certain people seem to think that the opinions of the mankind should be unified. Amazingly enough, their expectations may go in both ways, depending on the context.

So in the context of the European Union, everyone is expected to support an ever tighter unification and an ever more powerful government in Brussels. That's what they would call "unity" or "love" or "peace". In the context of Serbia, Israel, Russia, and other countries, everyone is expected to support the creation of a maximum number of new states that will disintegrate the previous local power as much as possible. In this case, the desirable process is called "freedom" or "independence" or "right to self-determination" and no one cares that it is the opposite of "unity", "love", and "peace".

They always like to use positive, black-and-white words for their favorite approaches and they always fail to see that it is possible to see things differently.

Is it really so difficult to see that there exist people who have good reasons to dislike the idea of a central, supernational European government? And is it so difficult to understand that there exist people who are legitimately upset about the continuing fragmentation of countries such as Israel, Serbia, or Russia?

And once you understand that people have diverse opinions and diverse interests, is it so difficult to honestly behave in such a way that you reveal that you realize that people have different opinions and different interests? Or do you think that politicians - and not only politicians - have to be so flagrantly dishonest all the time?

Should politicians play this disgraceful would-be moral game of "expecting something" that makes it virtually impossible for cowards (i.e. most people) to say and think something else? Fortunately, not everyone is a coward.

It would also be great if some of those politicians began to realize that blackmailing simply can't work in this context. Rational people, politicians, and nations are comparing the proposed treaties with their opinions and their interests. And if the treaties don't seem good enough for some parties, they will simply not be accepted.

If someone wants to blackmail Ireland or Czechia by pointing out that they might be "fired" from the EU, well, it is tough but it is his decision. However, such a secession is no taboo so the blackmailing won't be terribly efficient.

There exist advantages as well as disadvantages of our membership - or the membership of other countries. The disintegration of Czechoslovakia was much more important a change for the nations than someone's membership in the EU but it was not such a big deal, either. Such changes are only a problem if someone wants to fight with weapons. In other cases, an agreement is always found and the world may continue.

When the situation evolves in a certain direction, it is completely plausible that the disadvantages start to dominate and the "graceful exit" from the EU will become a realistic and acceptable option. The European Union can survive without Czechia and vice versa. The only problem for the EU is that it will have a hole at the very center of Europe - a non-simply connected manifold. But that's not such a big deal. ;-)

On the other hand, advantages may count, too. It is conceivable that many people in Czechia would appreciate if the EU capital were moved from the anachronical place encoding the cold war, the Brussels, into a more natural center, Prague or Pilsen. ;-) And if the Prague Castle were also declared to be the home of the EU president, as in a personal union, all the problems could suddenly go away. :-)

Some European nations live happily outside the EU but it is not the only alternative option. After all, it could be fun to establish new, Confederate States of Europe with Ireland, Czechia, and others.

There would be a lot of beer for everyone in the CSE. ;-) In the consumption of beer per capita, Czechia is the world's #1 superpower, with 157 liters a year. The #2 is Ireland, with 131 liters a year. Germany, Australia, Austria, the U.K., and Slovenia follow. I am not sure whether Australia will join the CSE soon.

Ireland may also join the U.S. Boston rather than Berlin... :-)

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snail feedback (3) :

reader XXX said...

I agree with you on the fact that you can have a reasonable discussion on the level (EU/national/local) certain decisions have to be made, and of course, it's everybody's right to agree or disagree for each topic on which level it has to be taken. The Euro is a typical examples here: you can argue that a single currency gives you transparancy and user friendliness in international trade, but takes the control of interest rates from the individual nations. The advantages and disadvantages deserve an honest discussion and you shouldn't be marked as politically incorrect if you're not convinced that there are more advantages than disadvantages. You also have a valid point on the undemocratic nature of the EU institutions. I don't think anybody understands the division of power between the European council, the European commission and European parliament.

However, I am quite disappointed with the arguments of the 'no' side. The only arguments I hear are 'against the EU superstate' or 'against control by Brussels' (as if Belgian inhabitants are magically in control of everything in the EU just because of the fact that the institutions are physically located in Brussels). Unfortunately, I don't find the honest discussion of advantages vs disadvantages in the no-camp. It's even more disappointing when you like at the arguments on the the European institutions. The no-camp keeps om pointing out the undemocratic aspects, but I haven't seen a single proposal from their side towards a more democratic structure. Consider e.g. a situation without the EU. In that case: each country will probably make treaties with each other country regarding trade, taxes, etc. Do you really think people will be allowed a vote when their respective governments sign these treaties with each of the 26 other countries? Personally, I'm for a 'EU-light' scenario, where the EU becomes a free trade zone only. However, I don't even know if I would fit in the 'yes' or the 'no' side.

reader Anonymous said...

Give me a break here, and check your information please.

There IS a full translation of the Treaty of Lisbon in Czech, and it has been around for six months now:

You can also see the consolidated versions of the treaties IN CZECH here:

It really helps when you know what you are criticizing about.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Why the hell do you think it is an official translation and how the hell did you find the file in a 6th subdirectory of a not-quite-root server in the first place? ;-)

I only wrote that there was no official translation - one that the European institutions would like to responsible for.

Incidentally, your website shows the frightening similarities between the Soviet Union and the European Union probably even more drastically than they are in reality. ;-)

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