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Rozhovor pana velvyslance v časopise Modern Weekly

As a representative of “New Europe”, what is the sense of identity of the Czech Republic? Libor Sečka,the Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Beijing, tells us that Czech people are willing to join in the EU’s integration process--- this is the consensus of the whole nation. However, they are pragmatists who will employ rational skepticism towards the EU once the ideal fails to combine with the reality.

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Rational Skepticism towards the European Union

Q: Modern Weekly

A: Libor Secka---Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Beijing

Q: What kind of role does the Czech Republic play in the EU’s integration process?

A: It is unsuitable for Czech people to answer this question. Since the turbulent changes in 1989, we have been searching for the right place to which we. When Czechoslovakia, known as the First Czechoslovakian Republic, was founded in 1918, we were listed among developed democratic countries. Even in the 1930s, we were one of the top ten industrialized developed countries, meanwhile, our political and social systems were very advanced. After the turbulent changes of 1989, what we need to do is to return to the past.

Q: Do you mean the Czech Republic intends to return to its past history?

A: We call the movement as “Return to Europe“. We want to come back our rightful place in Europe which belonged to us before --- this is Czech people’s spontaneous and natural wish. Therefore when you talk to any Czech, undoubtedly they think they belong to Europe and are willing to join in the European Union’s integration process---this is the consensus ofthe whole nation.

Q: But at present European Union is suffering  froma crisis, specifically a crisis of its structures.

A: Yes, the European Union is suffering  from a serious crisis presently. In the history of the EU, there are many times of crises. Crisis which forces you to desert many old models and seek new elements is not necessarily negative. Anyway, this crisis will be overcome.

In my opinion, we should separately discuss the political and economic changes. The changes I was talking about are visible from certain indications. In the past, Europe was significantly influenced by Russia and by the United States. As a matter of fact, they really played a certain role in (balancing) the world order. Changes in Eastern Europe and the USSR allowed the EU to shake off this menace. Also the USA has relatively changed a lot from before. The integration of the EU is on the rise, therefore our position is in the middle of a completely different geopolitical environment.

Present challenges are different from the previous ones too. The problems we had before were: what was the ultimate goal of the EU? What the destination of the EU's evolution? Presently we do not discuss these issues, at least we need not to talk about it for the time being. What we should consider is what can we gain from the EU? Though we are not sure whether the EU will develop to be a federal country or not, we believe it continues to develop. The only problem is the timing: should we accelerate its development? What should we do in different stages?

Q: I think the EU's future will neither be American-style federalism nor continuation of the nation-state.

A: You put forward a very interesting argument. The EU is new and in the past, we had high expectations for the construction of the EU---to build a European State. But now we should employ rational skepticism towardsthe EU. Nobody doubts about the fruits ofthe EU’development---in education, the EU market and foreign policy---all these are very positive. However, the question is whether we have already come to the moment of deep integration.

Q: Czech President Klaus who holds such an apparentdoubt towards the EU that he even refused to signthe Treaty ofLisbon is an obvious example of the skeptics.

A: I have to note that I did not agree with our President for a long time in the past, but now my opinions have changed slightly. Some media created certain fixed views on the EU such as “death of the EU”, “skepticism about the EU”, “realism of the EU”, “institutional theory of the EU”---all these views are rather crude. Our President himself has reitarated many times that he is not “a skeptic about the EU”, instead, he insists he is “a realist about the EU”. The EU is immature, so it is rational for him to put forward his criticism. Right now, the EU cannot proceed too fast with its integration. Czech people are pragmatists on many issues, moreover, their practice is constructive instead of destructive. Historically we had many great ideas and thoughts, but rational skepticism towards the EU will be employed once the ideal fails to combine with the reality.

Sometimes new members like us in the EU are often blamed because they think it is us that lead the EU to reduce the rate of its integration process. You know that development that is too fast will bring many problems, therefore it is necessary and constructive to make some practical decisions to slightly adjust it.

(unofficial translation)