Friday, October 26, 2018

Macron, scapegoats, and Visegrád

On Sunday, Czechoslovakia (despite its being formally dead) will celebrate its glorious 100th birthday. Today, Macron and Merkel will come to Prague to meet the president and the prime minister – and they will do the same thing with Slovakia, too. For Macron, it will be the first official visit to Czechia.

I hope that Macron likes this picture of the St Helena island. It's more appropriate than the place in the Slovak capital that Macron chose to talk to the public today: Primate's Palace where the Peace of Pressburg was signed to certify a triumph by Napoleon. Slovak press points out that this choice by Macron is, ehm, a bit pompous. ;-)

He gave an interview to "Hospodářské noviny" (a Czech WSJ) and three other dailies from the Visegrád Group (V4) countries (CZ, SK, PL, HU). The apparent goal of his verbal "gift" was to annoy us and he's really good at it. (The French and Czech press also claims that he wants to split V4 to the good guys, Czechoslovakia, and the bad guys, PL+HU.) Let me comment on his statements:
Czechs and other V4 citizens should embrace the slogan "Europe is us".
OK, first, the French president can't dictate what slogans Czechs and other V4 folks embrace. We're sovereign nations. On top of that, not even Czech or V4 politicians may dictate what slogan any individual citizen accepts – because we're nations of the free people.

Second, the European identity is clearly just a part – and probably a small part – of our identity. We're primarily Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, and Slovaks. After that, some of us also feel to be Czechoslovaks. And I think that many of us also feel to be citizens of V4 before we are citizens of the EU because we simply can't identify with many things that the EU stands for.

But yes, at some level, we feel the European identity. To some extent, "Europe is us". I will use this point soon.

Macron also stated:
The member states should stop treating the EU as a scapegoat that is blamed for anything whenever it is convenient.
But we're never doing so. We're only criticizing the EU for things it's demonstrably doing, like the suppression of the national sovereignty and the totally misguided migration and asylum policies.

Now, another juicy statement by Macron:
The EU needs further integration and it will not pay any attention the countries that would like to block it.
Let me remind Mr Macron that "Europe is us" which I embraced as my slogan a minute ago because he asked me to do it. Europe is (also) us, the folks in the V4 countries, and most of us don't want further integration. Instead, we want just the opposite – we want to return many things that have been moved to Brussels back to the national capitals because the centralized government system doesn't work well.

Clearly, the statement that "the EU will pay no attention to us" is breathtakingly arrogant and he must be a really hopeless idiot if he doesn't understand why the V4 citizens don't want to identify themselves with the organization that proudly says "not to pay any attention to our nations". Europe is us but the European Union is not. The European Union is increasingly becoming our antagonist.
We can't exploit the European budget without accepting the solidarity e.g. in the context of migration. We can't struggle to reduce our contribution to the European budget without knowing what the single market implies. If we want to kill Europe, let's continue in this way.
First, let me start with the final sentence. Citizens and politicians of V4, starting with Viktor Orbán, don't want to "kill Europe". On the contrary, we're the main ones that defend Europe and what this word really represents, including its principles such as freedom, democracy, sovereignty of countries, and the moral foundations largely derived from Christianity.

If we want to kill something, it's the kind of the European Union that brags "not to pay any attention to us".

Second, every responsible politician from any nation state simply has the duty to do a lot to tame the contributions of his or her country to transnational organizations. It's because politicians are elected by their nation – by their electorate – to serve the same nation – to serve the same electorate. Clearly, Mr Macron is doing it as well. He wants to be the new Napoleon who would like to decide about the future of the continent while paying "no attention" to the opinions and interests of others.

Any common project like that unavoidably faces the constant fact that the interests of the different members are simply not identical and cannot be identical. A transnational organization similar to the EU is either capable of dealing with these disagreement in a civilized way, or it is a source of extra problems.

Third, the EU budgets have traditionally redistributed the money so that richer regions were the net payers and the poorer countries were the net recipients. The purpose of this redistribution was to make the EU more uniform which is generally good for the viability of any country, empire, or confederacy. This redistribution has nothing whatever to do with the agreement about migration policies – just read the damn laws of the EU, Mr Macron. We, a vast majority of the folks in V4, believe that Europe shouldn't embrace millions of exotic migrants and our belief is at least as strong as your apparent belief that Europe should be Islamized. Europe is us and our opinions matter. They surely matter for us more than your opinions do.

Fourth, the European integration could have been justified by legitimate arguments because in many respects, it has been good and it is still good for both sides. Take Czechia as an example. We're receiving some 1-2 percent of our GDP through net EU inflows – although most of these inflows just distort our market, pay insane subsidies to our prime minister, and build new bike paths many of which are useless (and I say it despite my being in the top 1% of the users).

But Czechia has allowed its companies to be bought by foreign owners etc. As a result, the Western companies and owners have exploited the still cheaper labor in Czechia. They own a lot and a whopping 5% of the Czech GDP represents the outflows of the dividends. Now, who should really be grateful? We're getting 1% of the GDP in the form of bike paths that we can't always influence; but we're sending 5% of the GDP to owners (mostly in Western Europe) who can get this money only because we allowed it.

You really don't want an emotional discussion about this point because it can't lead to anything good. Instead, what you want is to respect the written laws. The sides agreed to be unified in this way. If they were rational and careful, they did it because it was good for the sides – for both of them. These agreements had some conditions that are written in the contracts. "Solidarity to exotic migrants" is surely not a part of these written contracts and Mr Macron's apparent efforts to pretend otherwise are a recipe for really profound conflicts. You simply cannot unilaterally and retroactively change these treaties, surely not in such a far-reaching way. And by the way, while "solidarity" may be considered a word that describes something "good", it is in no way a duty. Your statements that everyone is obliged to display solidarity of any kind that is invented in Paris, Brussels, or Berlin is just rubbish that absolutely contradicts the basic legal system in our countries. Even if all of us agreed that solidarity is good, and it's not really the case, we can't perform solidarity of all conceivable types, not even in principle. Mr Macron's thinking seems to be plagued by the fallacy of confusing solidarity and duties.

We like the single market. Czechia exports a lot and imports a lot. We're one of the most open economies and one of the nations that got most compatible with the foreign ownership of many of our companies. No Mr Macron has the credentials to teach us or moralize about these things. We behave in the way that would probably make Europe great again if others emulated us.

In the rest of the interview, Macron reiterated the point that all the integration, the Eurozone etc. must escalate etc., everyone must participate, the EU is a two-way road, and all the things about the EU must be decided by folks who agree with him. I am sorry but this is simply not the case. There are very clear rules and principles of the EU that say that we're full-blown members and we also contribute to the decision making. So we have the unquestionable right to challenge the further integration, excessive solidarity or distribution, too big projects, insane spending such as one for the "fight against climate change", new rights for the unified EU armies that could be abused against individual member states such as Hungary (and that would devour the money from things we really want), and thousands of other things.

If you think that you have the right or the power to suppress our opinions and legitimate attitudes to all these political questions, Mr Macron, you are wrong and we will make sure that you will be proven wrong in such a way that even you will be capable of understanding the point.

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