Germans seek to oust Czech president Václav Klaus over EU treaty (main source)It starts with a picture of somewhat happy Germans who are leaving the soon-to-be-communist-controlled Czechoslovakia after the war that they helped to start and that they just lost.
See also: Reaction by the Czech Press Agency
A Telegraph blog reaction
It's paradoxical but the expulsion into the soon-to-be-democratic West Germany has made most of their lives happier and richer. But I don't want to be excessively philosophical here.
At any rate, Václav Klaus has revealed that he considers a Czech opt-out from the Charter of Rights that is attached to the Lisbon Treaty as an appendix - it used to be an integral part of the European Constitution but they wanted to mask it because it was too controversial - with the special focus on the protection of the Czech property rights against hypothetical revisions of the post-war settlement, as guaranteed by the Beneš decrees, to be a necessary condition for his signature. The Poles and the Britons already have similar opt-outs related to the English judicial system and the Polish laws about gays. Read the president's statement.
Later, on Monday 10/12, the Czech government adopted Klaus's demands as their own, as I expected. They are going to fight for and perhaps win the concessions and, in the positive case, they want to believe that there won't be any more demands from Klaus. Maybe, the promise from Klaus about no further demands is a condition for them to work on his goals.
Edvard Beneš was the Czechoslovak president from the late 1930s to the late 1940s (he spent the war as the boss of our government in exile, in London). This close and talented collaborator of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president, had to oversee the loss to the Nazis, and later the loss of the Czechoslovak democracy to the communists.
The main point of the Beneš decrees that were adopted after the war was to restore some "macroscopic justice". About 90+ percent of the Sudeten German minority in the pre-war Czechoslovakia supported Hitler and as a group, they were responsible for a lot of bad things immediately before the war and during the war. Given the finiteness of the Czechoslovak judicial system, it would have been practically impossible to punish the culprits individually - so a group responsibility was chosen instead. Only Germans who could prove their active anti-Nazi resistance could have stayed in Czechoslovakia.
The former Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš and others realized that some formerly Czechoslovak Germans would suffer more than they deserved, others would suffer less than they deserved, but the expulsion was needed to restore justice at the inter-ethnic level and to avoid similar tension in the future. This process was okayed by the allies and it has created a new equilibrium in Central Europe that has guaranteed that the Czech-German tensions dropped nearly to zero. The Germans were pragmatically invited to the Czech lands - to do business - by a Czech king many centuries ago. At some moment, the co-existence stopped working, a war was started, and it was solved differently than the fathers of the war anticipated.
Be sure that pretty much every single Czech citizen will tell you that this was the right thing to do. Today, 91% of the TV viewers answered that they considered Klaus's condition justified. A significant fraction of the Germans will actually share this opinion. Most of them wouldn't care - which is why the WWII issues have largely become non-issues.
Of course, it's essential for the life of the Czech Republic and its stable scheme of property rights that the Beneš decrees would remain a full-fledged component of the legal system. President Klaus thinks that the Treaty of Lisbon may lead to doubts about these bills and their revisions or suppression by "other laws" in the future. Some future EU officials from Malta who don't know much about the history and about the laws could bring new havoc to this whole sensitive question.
I can't prove that the risk of the returning pre-war tensions is quite real. Klaus can't prove it either: of course, he introduced this topic partially in order to wake the Czech people up and to tell them that something important could be going on (and partially to sell a question in which the EU won't have unified opinions). But I simply suspect that the risk is nonzero. If it were zero, all EU politicians would instantly agree that Klaus is free to add these guarantees because they don't change anything about the document. They would be already working on ways to add it. Some of them disagree with the previous propositions so Klaus's addition can't be "quite vacuous".
The Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft - an organization of descendants of the expelled Germans that openly wants to revise the post-war settlement - has some standard contacts with mainstream German parties so I am personally worried about the possible influence of EU political groups on our national judicial system.
Whether or not you agree with my position that the post-war expulsion was "macroscopically just", you should be able to understand that this is a potentially explosive issue. If it exploded, it would be much more important for the Czech Republic than the membership in the European Union or any similar topic of this kind. A removal of the Beneš decrees would mean the destabilization of property rights of a significant part of the real estate market on one third of our country. It could be a complete mess, coupled with lots of nationalist emotions on both sides.
Remotely related: a CNBC interview (Sep 22, 2009) with Klaus on the economy, crisis, global warming, cap-and-trade, security, and Czechia.
You know, these are the things that do matter. EU subsidies that give Czechia less than 1% of its GDP these days (and getting subsidies is not something one should be proud about, anyway) are irrelevant details in comparison.
Some EU politicians have invested a lot of time and their personal prestige into the bet that the Treaty of Lisbon would ultimately be adopted. After all, they will benefit if it is ever adopted. So they're struggling to make this horrible document come true. But how far are they ready to go?
The Sunday Times article suggests that some of them are eager to go very far. They may even want (or plan?) to inspire a coup d'état in an EU member country. Now, try to understand how breathtaking intervention into another nation's sovereignty this is. Let me compare it with two examples: Iran (now) and Nazi Germany (in 1939).
Swiss media think that in Klaus, Europe finally found its Asterix. ;-)
Iran: a comparison
Iran is apparently building a nuclear weapon with missiles that could be capable to exterminate European cities - and its president has the will to use them against Israel and maybe others. The Euronaive officials think that it is politically incorrect to do something against Ahmadinejad et al. They surely don't plan to remove him.
Czech President Klaus' "guilt" is that he realizes that the Treaty of Lisbon is an undemocratic document that would push Europe incrementally further in a wrong direction. At any rate, he wants nothing more than the current treaties (engineered by similar EU officials in the recent past) to remain valid, and to be a starting point for further negotiations that should involve not only the Eurocrats who have breakfasts in Lisbon, lunches in London, and dinners in Warsaw - for the EU taxpayers' money, they're true citizens of the EU - but also the representatives of the actual EU taxpayers who usually live in separate countries.
Quite obviously, Klaus also doesn't like the idea that there should suddenly be an EU president (Tony Blair?) elected by no authentic EU citizens who would suddenly overshadow Klaus himself - as well as the winners of all national elections, including the U.K. elections (does it matter whether the British voter votes for the Tories if a Labour politician will be more influential, anyway?). While Klaus surely has some personal reasons to dislike this scenario, his dislike for this idea is shared by many others, too.
In Czechia and similar countries, 80+ percent of the people don't speak any English. It's just impossible for the bulk of the nation to consider Tony Blair to be a true representative of ours (at least until he learns Czech at least as well as I speak English: many former Austrian-born emperors actually did speak Czech well): nothing against him personally.
He's as foreign a politician as Barack Obama or anyone else. It is nonsensical to create utopias about a unified Europe that acts as a single player. In reality, we're clearly not a part of Europe in this particular sense. Blair doesn't understand the Czech people's concerns and most of us don't understand his. Most EU nations aren't parts of this kind of unified Europe, either. The EU as represented by its current officials would surely become more visible and poweful in the international context - but we would not. Politicians who have nothing to do with us would be speaking on our behalf. That's just bad.
If someone wants to overlook this "detail" - namely that most EU citizens simply don't feel to be a part of the community that is going to listen to the nearly uniform Western EU politicians and choose in between them - his behavior is another example of the imperial ambitions to rule the continent (or the world) that many power-thirsty individuals from the history textbooks suffered from.
This thing simply shouldn't get a green light.
The only legitimate arguments that could be put against Klaus's legitimate concerns are rational arguments showing how the Czech citizens (or companies) would benefit if the (already bad) Treaty of Nice were replaced by the (worse) Treaty of Lisbon. I haven't heard any. I have only heard how the European officials would benefit (no one really doubts that!) - plus some intimidation, bullying, and threats. These things are simply not good enough for any Czech or other EU citizens, whether they're left-wingers or right-wingers.
The EU officials who are interested in this topic and who are waiting for Klaus's further steps should read the actual relevant document for many of these questions, namely the Czech constitution. Unlike the Treaty of Lisbon, this document is actually valid right now.
If you search for "Chapter Three", you will get to the articles about the Czech president. It is very clear that among his limited powers, he has the power to ratify the international treaties (if he has been allowed to do so by the Parliament). Also, "the President of the Republic shall not be accountable for the acts resulting from the execution of his office."
You can also see that the only way to remove him is to get a special vote about his "high treason". All these things are completely absurd because (in these matters) Klaus is acting exactly in the ideal way sketched by the constitution while it would be those who would help the Eurocrats to remove Klaus who would commit "high treason" - and yes, I think that the maximum punishment could be a reaction to be considered in such an extraordinary case. It is simply unacceptable for a politician to join with foreign powers that want to remove an inconvenient president of the politician's own country. At least I surely think that this is a crime according to the existing laws as well as my moral values. I am sure that most Americans would feel in a similar way about a small group of Americans who would help foreign powers to remove Obama. The case of Klaus is really isomorphic even though it may be hard for some people to understand the isomorphism.
Believe me that this principle has nothing to do with the left-wing or right-wing ideology. It is about the basic patriotism and basic survival instincts of a nation - and if things became serious enough, be sure that right-wingers would happily join their forces with the communists and others.
At this moment, only 4 of 200 lawmakers (those from the Green Party) would support such a removal of Klaus. Chances are that the Green Party will never get to the Parliament again. It follows that the removal of Klaus cannot be realized as long as the sovereignty of the Czech Republic is respected at least at the most rudimentary level.
The uniform politically correct Eurocrats simply have to do something that they're not used to from their jobs - namely to negotiate with someone who "dares" to disagree with their opinion. You know, they may be used from their political "cultures" that people who share Klaus's values and opinions are easily bullied and marginalized in these countries. But in the Czech Republic, Klaus has been pretty much the strongest politician for about 20 years. You simply can't pretend that his disagreement is a negligible detail.
If they won't try to negotiate with Klaus, it seems that he will simply not sign the treaty. The guarantees he recently mentioned are his very minimal necessary condition for him to sign. He hasn't yet said that it's a sufficient condition - it may not be one - but war-like rhetoric simply doesn't help.
The European Union was able to work according to the Treaty of Nice for long years and any indication that its continuation would be a catastrophe is simply a lie - a lie presented by self-serving liars and autocrats who no longer want to see any political opposition in the EU. Never.
These people are the real threat for Europe and I urge all European citizens to realize who these people are and what are they trying to achieve. In the future, all of us may realize that we just missed a great chance to avoid a coming assassination of democracy on the bulk of our continent.
Nazi occupation: a comparison
I promised to compare the current situation with another chapter of the history:
So he invited Czechoslovak (in fact, only Czech - for one day) president Dr Emil Hácha to Berlin. You may imagine the brutal "negotiations". Dr Hácha - a lawyer (and translator of Three Men in a Boat, among other things) - was told that if he didn't sign, Prague would be bombed by Luftwaffe. He suffered from a heart attack (I mean a real one): his health wasn't good anyway (Klaus's body belongs to an entirely different category!). He ultimately signed the surrender.
The Nazis were monsters. But I want to say another thing. Once the Czech lands became a protectorate within the Greater Germany, Dr Emil Hácha was actually kept as the official President of the Protectorate. I am afraid that the report in the Sunday Times indicates that the Eurocrats would prefer a more radical way to deal with the Czech president than the relatively tolerant Hitler. They would like to remove the president. ;-)
Needless to say, it was a formality that the president remained in his office in 1939. The new most important politician in the Czech lands was a German politician, the EU Commissioner for Bohemia and Moravia. Oops: at those times, they called him the protector. ;-)
And you know, the first protector, Konstantin von Neurath (1939-1943 de iure i.e. sitting, 1939-1941 de facto i.e. acting) liked the Czechs too much - according to Berlin. So in 1941, he had to be replaced by Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main architects of the Holocaust. That was already way too much so the Czechoslovak government in London managed to send a couple of parachutists and assassinate the "blonde beast" in 1942.
You know, the relationships between the EU headquarters and the Czech lands are probably incomparably better than the relations between the Czech nation and the Third Reich after 1939 (even though most Czechs were - sadly - kind of satisfied with the Reich socialism, too).
However, some EU officials are moving in a very unfortunate direction. Before they decide to use weapons of a certain magnitude against an inconvenient national politician, they should ask themselves whether they really want to do things that are evidently directed against a whole nation and its dignity. The fate of the blonde beast should discourage them from doing certain things.
Be sure that almost no one in the Czech Republic hates Klaus sufficiently much to approve a coup against the Prague Castle organized outside the country. A graceful exit from the EU would surely be preferred by most Czechs over a membership in a union that is removing inconvenient Czech politicians, whatever their political colors can be. And be sure that if such a plan became real, we would recommend everyone else to leave this EU as soon possible, too.
And that's the memo.