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Článek velvyslance Tomáše Kafky pro deník Irish Independent (30. prosince 2012)

(Archivní článek, platnost skončena 15.05.2013 / 13:45.)

Příspěvek T. Kafky pro populární deník vychází v předvečer půlročního předsednictví Irska v Radě Evropské unie. Článek je přiložen v anglickém originále.


Gift of the gab may help us rekindle EU romance

THE year 2013 is widely acknowledged to be a very important one for the future of the European Union. This suggestion could, however, be understood to be both a reason for hope as well as a threat to the union.

The process of European integration seems currently to be less about facts and more about the state of mind of Europeans. The importance of being either optimistic or pessimistic cannot be overestimated, and this choice will determine the mood in which we greet the upcoming Irish EU presidency. The Irish presidency has been reputed to be one of the best – at least in the last 20 years.

Speaking about the reputation of the Irish presidency should not to be mistaken for pandering – Ireland's popularity within the EU does not need propaganda. The potential of the Irish presidency in 2013 is based upon facts. In 1990 the Irish presidency developed an approach to German reunification; in 1996 it vitally helped to facilitate the Amsterdam Treaty, giving more rights to EU citizens; in 2004 it finalised the enlargement of the EU family by opening the gate for 10 new Eastern European countries.

These successes were not just down to the skills of the Irish negotiators and administrators but they all occurred on the Irish watch. If this is just a coincidence then, it is a very good one.

However, a good reputation cannot work miracles. Especially when the problems which haunt the current union are so grave, like youth unemployment, unsustainable bank and sovereign debt and a fatal lack of trust.

All these problems have grown during years of irresponsible economic and political behaviour and cannot be successfully cured by any political authority without a sea change in the minds of those who caused them. Effectively, that means us – the citizens of Europe. Yet it does not mean that the Irish presidency could not make a difference in the next six months.

One way the Irish presidency could live up to its previous accomplishments has more to do with our hearts than with our minds. The biggest achievement for it perhaps could be to make all of us like the European Union a bit more than we do at the moment. This would be equal to all the great deeds the Irish presidencies have been proud of in the past.

The question is how to make it happen? How do they convince not only us non-Irish but also the Irish themselves? Outstanding communication skills are firmly attributed to the Irish political style. Yet on the current European stage, the problems cannot be tackled just by talking. It will be necessary to stop any kind of blame game, creating a positive momentum, leading by example and, last but not least, taking care that not all the joys of life are put on hold just because our economies are, temporarily, in bad shape.

Let's start with the last of these: the Irish imagination has not lost its ability to hit the spot, recently demonstrated by Irish comedian Barry Murphy's alter-ego Gunter and his sketch on The Late Late Show where he compared the current state of the EU with a train dashing increasingly out of control somewhere close to China. His comedy not only liberated his audience but also made us proud to be sitting in the train and being a part of the joke. Humour connects and we must not forget that it is laughing that makes us human. Ireland could be a very important messenger in this regard.

The restoration of mutual trust with a goal of stopping the blame game is more difficult. Both problems come down to the necessity of finding a way to help the Irish with its bank and sovereign debt on the European stage. Only then will the Irish recovery programme be a success. There are two crucial aspects needed to ensure this success; making any European intervention really significant for the Irish economy so that its citizens would feel the difference, and creating a European context for this act so that the donors would be sure their concessions would not be regarded as an expression of weakness, rather of strength.

The resolution of these dilemmas envisages an approach which would be generally regarded as unique for the Irish and without setting any precedents for others. If the Irish negotiators succeed in their task they would not only reach a breakthrough for their country; they would also restore a great deal of solidarity within the EU.

"The special case" of Ireland might then make the whole EU feel a bit more cohesive and, who knows, in addition to the communication skills of the Irish, make us finally more fond of the EU in general. Wishing the Irish presidency well means wishing us all well!

Tomas Kafka