EFDD group conference: Wednesday, 12 November 2014, 12.30-2.00 pm (UK time), European Parliament, Brussels.
President Vaclav Klaus transcript, speaking at an EFDD event at the European Parliament, «Europe 25 Years After the Fall of the Iron Curtain».
„Good morning, good afternoon, many thanks for the invitation. I must say that I haven’t been in Brussels for years, I have to admit, probably it’s well known that this is not one of my favourite places. If I have the chance I prefer to go somewhere else.
Nevertheless, thank you. I didn’t come here to make a surprising speech or something new, I received an invitation to speak about as I understood it originally “25 years after the fall of communism”, which is a topic which is absolutely fundamental to us these days in our countries of central and eastern Europe. Everyday we have some conferences, discussions, but to be on this occasion also here, I must say that I probably didn’t read cautiously the invitation because I understood it originally as “25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall”, then I discovered it was “Europe 25 years after the fall of communism”, which is not an identical topic.
Nevertheless, let me say this about this anniversary. I am really convinced that we should not forget or stop discussing communism. Its fall, the challenges of the post-communist transition, let me say a few words about that.
It has been almost forgot that communism, the most irrational, oppressive, cruel and inefficient system, ceased to exist suddenly and relatively quietly. It fell at the same time in most countries in central and eastern Europe and with some delay also in the Soviet Union (…) all the non-negligible differences among the countries of the former Soviet Union, proved that even though we all supposed that we were unique, the common features were stronger.
It’s also probably time after 25 years to say that after the fall of communism, (…) the feeling when we became suddenly free, we got a feeling that the world did not quite understand us. The degree of the lack of freedom, of the irrationality of the old system, oppression we had to go through in the communist era was highly underestimated.
On the contrary, the degree of our understanding of the free world, which we were not part of for such a long time, proved to be higher than most of the people in the West expected. This by the long lasting communist propaganda (..) we knew (more) of the capitalist West that the non-communist world knew about us.
I am afraid this asymmetry is there even now after long 25 years. To keep reminding the future generations of all the cruelties of the communist era is undoubtedly important. But not to correctly interpret the later, in many respects milder, versions of communism makes it difficult to understand the sudden and bloodless end of communism, to comprehend events of the post-communist transition and to be able to look sharply at the current era, at the developments both in the communist world, in Europe and in the rest of the world.
Everyone especially expected that the end of communism would bring both a shock, chaos, disorder, war, as we know this did not materialise. Even in the Soviet Union, where communism lasted more than seven long decades, it foundered more or less quickly.
This relatively quiet end reveals the weakness and effective defencelessness (…) communism in 1989 needed one last straw. The subsequent reactions of millions of people started automatically and spontaneously.
One of the reasons for this was that the communist regime was in many respects an empty shell, in the final stages of communism, regional pillars of its ideology of Marxism and of its derivative of communist doctrine – I remember and I have to repeat this story, that ten years before the fall of communism, a friend of mine, a professor of an American university came to Prague, and asked me whether the people really do believe in Marxism and communism. And an answer which is worth repeating, I said, “Nobody believes in Marxism here. There are more true believers in Marxism at the University of California in Berkeley than in the whole communist Czechoslovakia”. So this is part of the story which helps to understand the relatively sudden, very quiet end of communism.
This all my criticism of various details of developments in my country and in elsewhere, I think I have to insist that the post-communist transition or transformation was a success. The criticism of its particular aspects is undoubtedly justified and more than welcome, but it (…) tendency can’t be disputed. (…)
I would like to stress that we organised a rapid system of change. We proclaimed very early and quite explicitly that we wanted capitalism. We resolutely refused all dreams of, or about, a possible desirable convergence of existing economic and political systems.
What we are getting now however is not the first wave. It is the old well-known, the European socialism.
The decisive part of the transformation was the massive and wholesale privatisation and the radical liberalisation, de-regulation and de-subsidisation of the economy. This liberalising tendency lasted only part of the previous 25 years, partly due to the loss of our momentum for domestic political reasons, but mostly because of our approaching and finally entering the EU, we started reverse.
That’s why our economy and society is more regulated and subsidised than (…) to 15 years ago. The final (…) was the recent financial and economic crisis and with the methods of its medical treatment by means of a very extensive government interventionism.
In any case, our society and our economy happens to be more regulated than we imagined in the moment of the fall of communism. We did not believe it could ever (…) it seemed to us that a government masterminding our society was so discredited by the communist experience of ours, that it cannot return. We were wrong. We also assumed that everyone accepted that the government failure is inevitably much bigger than any imaginable market failure, that the visible hand of the state is always much more dangerous than the invisible hand of the market, that the vertical relations in society are less productive and less democratic than horizontal relations, et cetera. Again, we were wrong.
It is undoubtedly connected with our entry to the EU and with how the EU is already and how the EU functions.
I have to stress that at the moment of the fall of communism, what we wanted to go back to Europe. On the streets in Prague during the moment of the velvet revolution, the slogans were “Back to Europe”. Probably (…) the first who tried to explain to people that the slogan Back to Europe means something else other than into the European Union.
So instead of going Back to Europe, we went back to the European Union, and this is what we feel as a (…). It is quite evident that entering the European Union we didn’t become part of a healthy (…) fast growing economic area, and that we didn’t become part of a truly democratic entity. We observe almost every day new and new proofs of the loss of our sovereignty.
This growing despair we witness reversal of our liberal reforms, into a new era of omnipresent government. I am afraid that Europe continues down the same blind alley as before regardless the deteriorating economic data, the waning respect and position in the rest of the world, regardless the deepening of the democratic deficit, we are confronted with and regardless the undeniable increase of frustration of those who live in Europe and are the objects of this progressivist and contructivist (…)
We live in the era of economic stagnation, but the economic stagnation we are facing is not an historic inevitability, it’s a problem of a deliberately chosen and for decades gradually developed European economic and social system on the one hand, and on the more and more centralistic and undemocratic European Union political system.
And especially they together form an insurmountable obstacle to any farther positive development. So I repeat, what we go through is not an accident or a mistake, it’s a self-inflicted problem, it’s a self-inflicted injury, hundreds of small precise innocent details have metamorphosed into a curious systematic problem.
I hope that all that is well known to this group, at least no one is leaving the room when I am speaking, which a pleasant surprise, so I hope at least this section of the European Parliament is aware of what (..) I hope and I believe that you will try to use your important political rolls to do something with it.
So, that’s my dream, my belief, to discuss what to do different (…), different meetings. I will stop at this moment, thank you very much”.