Saturday, February 21, 2009

Go Klaus Go

I am a huge fan of Vaclav Klaus having read his book, heard him speak, and even met him once. So when Andrew Stuttaford put this up over at The Corner, I decided to copy and post it in full. Go Klaus Go! (And thank you Mr. Stuttaford)

Was It Something He Said?
by Andrew Stuttaford

Europe's last serving Thatcherite, Czech president Vaclav Klaus, made a speech to the EU's sham parliament on Thursday. It was a fine speech, in fact, so fine that it enraged the thugs, scolds, crooks, and placemen who make up so much of the world's least impressive deliberative body.

Daniel Hannan MEP reported what happened (or, even more pointedly, what didn't happen) here:
When anti-federalist MEPs held up placards calling for a referendum during a plenary session of the European Parliament, the big parties reacted with excruciating pomposity and hyperbole. Martin Shulz, the Socialist leader, said that our behaviour made him think of Adolf Hitler. Graham Watson, the Liberal leader, said that it "recalled the behaviour of the Communists in the Russian Diet [sic] and the National Socialists in the German Reichstag ". Several MEPs were issued with fines, on grounds that they had disgraced the assembly in the presence of a national leader (the Portuguese Prime Minister, José Socrates).

So, what action was taken against those Euro-integrationist MEPs who jeered, heckled and interrupted Václav Klaus yesterday? Their offence, surely, was the greater, Mr Klaus being a head of state. In insulting him, they insulted the Czech population. Have they been likened to Nazis? Will they be disciplined or fined?

I think we can all guess the answer...

The full text of Klaus's subtle and challenging speech (in which he shows himself by no means opposed to some forms of European integration) can be found here, but this, in particular, is well worth noting:

The present decision making system of the European Union is different from a classic parliamentary democracy, tested and proven by history. In a normal parliamentary system, part of the MPs support the government and part support the opposition. In the European parliament, this arrangement has been missing. Here, only one single alternative is being promoted and those who dare thinking about a different option are labelled as enemies of the European integration. Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition. It was through this experience that we learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom. That is why political alternatives must exist.

And not only that. The relationship between a citizen of one or another member state and a representative of the Union is not a standard relationship between a voter and a politician, representing him or her. There is also a great distance (not only in a geographical sense) between citizens and Union representatives, which is much greater than it is the case inside the member countries. This distance is often described as the democratic deficit, the loss of democratic accountability, the decision making of the unelected – but selected – ones, as bureaucratisation of decision making etc. The proposals to change the current state of affairs – included in the rejected European Constitution or in the not much different Lisbon Treaty – would make this defect even worse.

Since there is no European demos – and no European nation – this defect cannot be solved by strengthening the role of the European parliament either.

No wonder those clowns were angry.

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