The New Atlanticist

In a truly bizarre display, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who holds the rotating EU presidency, yesterday compared the institution to the Soviet Union. Constant Brand for AP:

Klaus is known for deep skepticism of the EU and has refused to fly the EU flag over his official seat in Prague during the Czech presidency, saying the country is not an EU province.

He said current EU practices smacked of communist times when the Soviet Union controlled much of eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic and when dissent or even discussions were not tolerated.
“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,” said Klaus. “We learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom.”

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  1. The reaction of some of the ‘Europeans’ to criticism is sometimes rather exaggerated. Nor do some of the beliefs about democracy of these ‘offended’ critics resemble that of the Founding Fathers. Refer to the first debates about European democracy in 1949 in the Council of Europe. They had a clearer and deeper definition of what European democracy should entail. The initiator of modern Europe, Robert Schuman, for example said that in a true democracy, there is only one limit to liberty: the institutions of State and Society must remain safe and protected from violence and destructive enterprises. Any reform can be the subject not only of free discussion, but moreover of individual or collective action to the public powers, in the forms foreseen by the law. This is one of the best definitions of an Open Society I have seen. It lies at the base of the European Community system. However the present system is still to develop along the lines set by the Founding Fathers, and there have been decades of attack against them. This has left much damage and therefore we should welcome positive criticism. President Klaus did not question the overall goal of European unity with peaceful coexistence and development. Other critics have pointed out that the Council of Ministers still behaves like that of North Korea or the Supreme Soviet when it holds the most important debates and takes the most crucial decisions for all citizens high-handedly behind closed doors, in contempt of the public’s reactions. Schuman said that the Councils should be open and under the ‘supervisory control of public opinion’. Hard to do when there is not even a public record, like the parliamentary Hansard. It is lamentable that this practice of closed doors dating from the Gaullist period has not changed in recent times.The Parliament shows a good example of openness as do some of the Consultative Committees that are open to the press and the public. The Commission has generally been open and acted as a model, but the Council has a long way to go to regain public confidence. David Price http://www.schuman.info

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