(To be checked against delivered speech)
Speech by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic
“Let me express my gratitude to President Kwasniewski and to all our Polish friends for organizing this event and to all of you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words here this morning. The Council of Europe was the first respected institution on the old continent which – shortly after the collapse of communism – offered us membership and accepted us as its full members. By doing so, the Council of Europe confirmed the quality of democratic changes realized in the Czech Republic. I hope the Council of Europe does have no problems with us in this respect.
These days, in the complicated and in many respects contradictory era of globalization and of wide-spread internationalism and multinationalism, our countries are members of many, sometimes complementary, sometimes competing, international institutions. We have to give them clearly defined roles. This is especially the case of the parallel existence or, perhaps, coexistence of the Council of Europe and of the European Union. We have to differentiate their respective fields of activities, their purposes, their comparative advantages. Let me say a few tentative words about this.
The birth of the Council of Europe was, in my understanding, a direct reaction to the lack of democracy in the era of totalitarian or authoritative regimes half a century ago. It is therefore about, or it should be about, Europe of traditional liberal values. It should be about Europe of freedom and peace, about Europe of democratic nation states, about Europe of diversity, about Europe of genuine differences among its building blocks, among the states which in their synergy brings about the uniqueness of Europe in the homogenized, more and more monolithic, uniform and less colourful world of regional blocks or unions. To look at the title of this morning’s session, I believe the Council of Europe is, primarily, not about European unity. It is basically about values.
The Council of Europe is also about Europe in a broader sense. It is inclusive. The European Union, on the other hand, is about closer cooperation and about political unification of a selected part of the continent. It is, inevitably, partial and exclusive. In its ambition to create an “ever-closer Union”, it tries to establish a new political entity. It is a different project than the original project of the Council of Europe.
Such differences of aims and purposes of different institutions are appropriate and sound. Even with the enlarged European Union, I do believe in the continuing existence of an institution which tries indirectly to protect civic rights and freedoms in its member countries, of an institution which does not take civic rights of citizens of those countries directly into its own hands. I do believe, therefore, in the continuation of the Council of Europe’s role in fighting non-democracy. (By non-democracy I mean suppression of democracy by the state.)
This is, undoubtedly, the old and original mission of the Council of Europe. I do believe, however, as well in its new mission which becomes highly relevant now, at the beginning of the 21st century, in the era of massive emergence of post-democracy. By this term I mean attempts of manifold forces, structures and groupings (not of the state itself), which – without a democratic mandate – try to directly decide (or at least basically influence) various crucial and sensitive public issues.
I have in mind various manifestations of NGOism, of artificial multiculturalism, of radical humanrightism, of aggressive environmentalism, etc. In these activities, I see new ways of endangering and undermining of freedom, which we at least those of us who lived in the communist era take very seriously.
To return to the title of this morning’s session: European values and European unity, I dare to say that „unity“ is not the priority. Values, based on freedom, rule of law and market economy, represent a true priority for all of us.”