Rebuilding an EU based on trust
07.02.2014 / 15:03
The Czech foreign minister sets out the new Czech government's view of the EU and the policy changes that this administration will bring.
Any successful project must be based on mutual trust. This is even more the case in international politics. That is why the most urgent task facing the European Union is to regain the trust of its citizens and its international partners.
The European Union is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Europe's painful history in the 20th century makes the wisdom of Europe's founding fathers even more remarkable. European integration has become the norm, but without active support from citizens, it will not endure. If I look at my own country, the Czech Republic, in 1989, the EU was a unifying vision for the future; now, levels of support are at record lows.
The new Czech government wants to rebuild that trust. We intend to play our role to the full, acting as an active and reliable partner to push forward the integration project.
We need to begin by showing that the European institutions are part of the solution, rather than being perceived as part of the problem. The institutions need to concentrate on providing value-added for citizens on the key issues of concern, rather than trying to do everything. And they should serve the people rather than the interests of the financial sector.
To defend democracy, European social harmony is needed. Our goal must be to maintain social cohesion across Europe, something that has been severely undermined during the economic crisis. This will be a priority for the new government. The emphasis on austerity and cuts rather than growth and jobs has called into question core principles of the EU, like the European social model and equal opportunities for all. The priority in the months to come, as Europe emerges from the economic crisis, must be efforts to boost growth and deliver structural reform so that everyone in society has the same chance and social cohesion can be restored.
To deliver this, we need trust between the EU's member states. We live in a world that is laden with uncertainty, unpredictability and instability. The divides of old and new member states must disappear after ten years of membership.
It is in our common interest to identify a common vision for Europe. A vision that will help to overcome the current signs of fragmentation. One member state cannot be more equal than the others. We have a responsibility to ensure that the smallest member states are as respected as the biggest. Loyalty to the project is crucial. Unlike in the past, the Czech Republic now recommends to its people key reforms like the banking union, the fiscal compact and entry into the eurozone.
In the same vein of proactive engagement, the Czech government will promote a Union that is politically and economically strong, able to defend Europe's interests in the world while assuming its responsibilities globally.
Our immediate concern is to build trust with close neighbours of the EU who wish to work together and, possibly, in the future, join the Union. The way that the EU interacts with others requires change. The EU tends to forget that enlargement has been one of its major successes in the past two decades. The Czech Republic wants a Union that is open, with shared common values. We will support candidate countries on their way to future membership. Similarly, it is necessary to strengthen the European foreign and security policy to make it more coherent.
The future of the 'West' and the global democratic order relies not only on military and economic capabilities, but also on the ability to engage in an effective dialogue with others. It is not possible to go to Ukraine or anywhere else simply to preach. The power of words comes not through speeches, but through genuine dialogue. We have to make the case to our neighbours through our values of the rule of law, democracy and respect for human right.
We need an EU that is a rational organisation, strengthening the perception of stability in a world that faces ever greater global threats. Without trust, both internal and external, we will never be a strong and credible global actor.
Lubomír Zaorálek became the Czech Republic's minister of foreign affairs on 29 January. He is a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (CSSD).