Riishøj, S. (2004). Europeanisation and Euro-scepticism: Experiences from Poland and the Czech Republic. Středoevropské politické studie, 6(4). Získáno z https://journals.muni.cz/cepsr/article/view/4051/5269
Europeanization and Euroscepticism-

 

Europeanisation and Euro-scepticism.

Experiences from Poland and the Czech Republic.

 

Søren Riishøj

 

 

Abstract:

The first section of this article briefly highlights the concepts of “national identity” and “europeanisation”. Although seeming to have the same “core-meaning”, these concepts have been explained differently. Broadly speaking, “europeanisation” has been studied by using either rationalist “objective” or “subjective” social-constructivist type argumentation. Moving to more ordinary politics, attitudes to the EU seem to be more linked to national interests and to a smaller extent based on identities. Furthermore, like national identity “euro-scepticism” has been examined discursively underlining the impact of mutually overlapping (multiple) identities and European identity versus national identity.

Euro-scepticism may be cleavage based, i.e. connected to particular cultural, geographic and socio-economic factors like land-town, work-capital, church and society or be connected to concrete issues and the negotiations with the EU. In addition, some studies of Euro-scepticism have been party based. In those cases a distinction between “soft” and “hard” euro-scepticism may be useful.

The last section will concentrate on Poland and the Czech Republic. Also other CEECs will be mentioned. In the case of Poland, euro-scepticism mostly can be found in the conservative-traditionalist camp, in the eastern part of the country and geographically in the small towns and in the land districts, sometimes in a catholic-fundamentalist and agrarian shape. In the case of the Czech Republic, the main focus will be on the difference in the attitudes of former president Václav Havel and the current president Václav Klaus, the policy of the social democrats (ČSSD) and soft and hard scepticism expressed by the liberal Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the communists (KSČM).

 

Key words: national identity, European identity, Euro-scepticism, Poland, the Czech Republic

 

On national and European identity

 

National identity was the object of studies already back in the 1950s and 1960s, e.g. by people like Karl Deutsch and Ernest Hass, to a great extent inspired by the start of European integration and German and French reconciliation. A crucial question has been (and still is), to what extent national identity constitute a barrier for further Europeanisation and integration, and to what extent crossing multiple identities can co-exist.

 

After some years “euro-optimism” was dampened and neo-realist and rational choice based approaches took over. Sometimes identity was used as an explanation “of the last resort” (Lapid 1996) and as “a negative residual category” (Schöpflin 2000), included when rational explanations were retreating. Europeanisation was studied in rationalist ways taking as the point of departure the transfer of the EU laws and rule (“aquis communautaire”) into national laws and administrative practice. 

 

Later, in the 1980s and 1990s with the wars on Balkan, the end of the cold war and transition to unipolarity more emphasis was laid on national identity using social constructivist approaches (Drulák 2001: 11). As put by Benedict Anderson (Anderson 1983), a nation (and “Europe”) has to be “imagined” in order to be a reality. The CEECs’ “return to Europe” and prospects of EU membership soon became addition factors. Distinctions like “we-ness” versus “other-ness”, the “them space” versus the “we space” and “inclusion” versus “exclusion” became normal practice. In particular the interpretation of history and historic events tends to separate national identity from other types of collective identity as each nation has its own “myths” and “narratives”, folklore, geography, language and national symbols. Thus, in a social constructivist perspective, national identity may be defined as

 

“a set of self-perception, shared memories and experiences (history), traditions, and the geographical and cultural predisposition of a nation” (Brodský 2001: 21)

 

and in Lesaar’s formulation as

“people’s sense of being equal with each other or of belonging to a community” (in Drulák 2001)

 

and Kiss’

“a synthesis of values, sentiments of attachments, and social representations that are associated with cognitive factors structuring the identification process” (Kiss 2001, referring to Rosa 1996).

 

In a rational institutional perspective, studies of Europeanisation have paid attention to what extent changes in each member country in the case of implementation of EU-decisions and to what extent the prevailing structures (and norms and rules) have come under pressure by developments at the European level. Changes may take place before (“anticipatory adoption”) as well as after membership of the EU. Neo-functionalists see those changes of behaviour as “inevitable” and “automatic”, reinforced by “spill-over effects” and “upgrading of common interests. When talking about europeanisation, historical institutionalists like to talk about the significance of former decisions and institutional practices and a path “dependence”. Liberal institutionalists like Andrew Moravcik emphasize the “negotiation games” and the shaping of national preferences, inspired by game theories. In that perspective Europeanisation involves mutual adoption of national and sub-national governance systems to one European centre and the common European norms and rules, as

 

An incremental process re-orientating the direction and shape of politics to the degree that EC political and economic dynamics become part of the organizational logic of national politics and policy making” (Laffan 2003, referring to Ladrech 1994: 69),

 

and when including both institutional aspects and identity as

 

“processes of (a)construction (b)diffusion and (c) institutionalization of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy paradigms. Styles, “ways of doing things” and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU decisions and then incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures and public policies” (Radielli 2000).

 

Thus, most observers agree that “Europe” and Europeanisation make a difference, that they “do matter” and have become an integral part of domestic politics, i.e. been “domesticated” (Gwiazda 2002: 13). Today institutional and political processes, earlier discussed on national state level, e.g. political parties and local politics, are mostly studied in a European and maybe global perspective. To a still greater extent European institutions and EU rules are taken for granted more than before making an impact on national players, thereby inevitably putting question marks at the future of the national states. Nonetheless, it may be difficult to make clear, to what extent institutional and organizational changes take place due to Europeanisation or whether explanations shall be found somewhere else, just as it can be difficult precisely to measure out the exact impact from Europeanisation. Sometimes national institutions are so robust and deep-rooted in society that they survive in spite of Europeanisation and globalization. Great countries like France have even strived to shape international institutions according to their national model (Grote 2003) and sometimes successfully.

 

For the new EU member countries it might be difficult to separate the changes and the convergence towards market economy and democracy caused by respectively internal and external factors. As regards the external factors it may be difficult to make sure, to what extent institutional changes are due to demands from the EU, or alternately from other institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. After all, most observers share the opinion that the foundation of the EU rests more on formal institutionalization than on common attitudes and identities. Thus, Europeanisation has been signified by “overinstitutionalization” and weaknesses on the “support side”, i.e. concerning socio-cultural foundation and normative integration (Kelstrup 1992: 148). The common identity that makes institutions legitimate tends to lag behind the formal institutional crafting.

 

The adaptation to the EU rules and norms in the CEECs in the new EU member countries shall also be examined in the context of the previous years of triple transitions. After the break-through in 1988-89, the CEECs passed from one-party systems and planned economies to market economies and democracy, also national identities had to be changed, some like the Baltic states were “reborn” after decades under soviet rule. Moreover, besides triple transitions had to include a “fourth” transition, namely the unexpectedly complex and long-term adoption of the EU norms and rules (the aquis).

 

For the citizens in the CEECs, concepts like “Europe” and “return to Europe” had different meanings.  The vision of the future Europe was mostly vague, as most resources were absorbed by accession negotiations. For many Europeanisation was connected with a return to the “normal order” after 40 years under communism, with high expectations of modernization and catching up with West-Europe. Experience with state socialism and high costs of transition gave rise to an almost “anti-utopian spirit” with an in-built mistrust to almost all long-term idealistic plans for the future and a preference for the “secure” and already tested (Rupnik 2004). Opinion polls show that many East-Europeans see themselves at the same time as “nationals” and “Europeans”. Less than 40 % declare themselves primarily “nationals”, e.g. being Hungarian or Pole before being European (see figure). In the liberal variant “Europe” has been connected to subjects such as individualism, liberalism, rule of law, constitutionalism, free market economy, openness and secularisation.

 

Figure 1. The various identities, distribution in percentages, Poland, Eurobarometer.

 

 

The new EU-countries had their own specific “model-countries”. Some admired certain West-European countries or systems, others the US and some did not separate Europe and the US, expressing them selves in “Euro-Atlantic” ways. To speed up all-European values and identities, Europe needs its own positive narratives and myths, which is a problematic matter.  Identities are often multiple, multilayered and cross-cutting and only rarely clear-cut and mutually consistent. After the cold war and the demise of the state socialism it is no longer sufficient to have a common enemy (an “otherness”).

 

Many small states, and states which for decades have been under foreign rule and overlay, experience the so-called “integration dilemma”, i.e. the feeling

 

either to give up a great part of national sovereignty and thereby risking to be “absorbed” by the integration system, or alternately insist on maintaining national sovereignty thereby risking to be left out and isolated and abandoned (Kelstrup 1992: 154).

National and European identities may be in harmony, but several times mutually conflicting.

 

In spite of many barriers, in official declarations there been much talk about formation of a common European identity, not less than means for strengthening cooperation on the security and foreign policy field, which has been predominantly intergovernmental. The question is, however, whether those visions for a common European identity can be realized at all, and to what extent the greater diversity and new medieval and imperial characteristics after the enlargement will blur the differences between the EU “insiders” and “outsiders”, and eliminate all dreams and plans about establishing a common European “super state” signified by closed frontiers and high cultural homogeneity (Rupnik, 2004).

 

“Euro-scepticism”

 

The absence of strong European institutions and a common European identity and a high resistance, or rather apathy, to the EU at the referenda in the CEECs about EU treaties has increased the interest of “euro-scepticism”, and enhanced efforts to limit the democratic deficit in the EU system by introducing a new treaty constitution and a new vision for the EU “la finalité”. However, evidence seems to suggest that common European attitudes that should back up the Europeanisation process do no exist and, if they do, then only in embryonic forms. The issue of EU accession has played a modest role in the national election campaigns and appears to have had no significant impact on party choice of the electorate. Euro-scepticism also tends to manifest itself differently in the “new” and the “old” Europe and in small and large states. According to a worst case scenario, after EU accession the new EU-members from the East become the “others” for the “old” Europe, i.e. the “EU-15”.

 

The first years after the “break through” in 1989 were marked by a considerable “euro-enthusiasm” or an “uninformed enthusiasm”, and the then widespread euro-optimism was not backed up by much concrete experience and knowledge about the EU system. Among the political parties the question about future EU-membership became a “valence issue”, i.e. an issue about which high consensus was predominant, at least as far as the goal (the EU-membership) was concerned. Disagreements encompassed different ways to reach the common goal. Unfortunately, Euro-enthusiasm was accompanied by a too modest debate about the EU and European affairs in the public, thus the unanimity in EU-questions tended to be signified by “consensus without discussion” (Drulák 2001: 55). Nonetheless, the debates on “la finalité” of Europe in the CEECs reflected the status of countries, which had recently re-gained their sovereignty. For that reason, before long the issue of national v. European identity, i.e. the integration dilemma became a “hot issue”.

 

As EU-membership came closer and became a realistic option, EU enthusiasm lowered. Inevitably the costs of future EU-membership became a more important subject for discussion. After the opening of negotiation about EU-membership, the populations and the political leaders also gained a more realistic picture of what “the EU really is about”. Thus, coming closer to “paradise” many people changed their attitudes from being “euro-naives” to becoming “euro-realists”, maybe even “euro-sceptics”.

 

Already before membership of the EU became a reality in May 2004, disagreement arose on some crucial questions, e.g. about the war in Iraq and the new constitution for the EU. In the horizon difficult negotiations about the future budget of the EU were lurking which might have re-activated the euro-sceptical attitudes. The war in Iraq divided the “new” and the “old” Europe, but the disagreements also comprised the question about the future shape of the European project. As Henrik Richard Lesaar put it (Lesaar, 2001: 194), it turned out to be easier to expand the Union than to overcome the old division of Europe. The lack of confidence between the “new” and “old” Europe inevitably reinforced atlanticism in the many new EU member states, especially in Poland and the Baltic countries, thereby undermining popular support for the European integration in those countries.

 

As argued above, “euro-scepticism” has most often been vaguely defined. In working papers and discussion papers published in connection with the cross country research project called “Opposing Europe”, started in year 2000 under Sussex University, Aleks Szczerbiak and Paul Taggart strived to better define the concept and put forward more robust classifications. Thus, we face the danger of conceptual stretching in case we include almost all EU critical proclamations and normal interest articulation under the notion “scepticism”. To take just one example: Shall Poland’s defence of the decisions taken at the 2000 Nice EU summit and Poland’s support of Britain’s and the US’ policy in Iraq be considered as “normal defence of national interests”, which is also found in the EU-15, or should the Polish intergovernmentalism and atlanticism rather be looked upon as soft or even hard Euro-scepticism, i.e. as reservations against the EU and the European project in general.

 

Aleks Szczerbiak and Paul Taggart argue that euro-scepticism

 

“expresses the idea of contingent or qualified opposition, as well as incorporating outright and unqualified opposition to the process of European integration”.

 

The separation of “hard” from “soft” is crucial, but also difficult to put into practice empirically. Impressed by the critique of conceptual vagueness and contradictions, Szcerbiak and Taggart reached a new and, according to themselves, a more sustainable conceptualisation, arguing that hard Euro-scepticism

 

“might be defined as a principled opposition to the project of European integration as embodied in the EU, in other words, based on ceding or transfer of powers to a supranational institution such as the EU.”

 

And soft euro-scepticism

 

“Might be re-defined as when there is not a principled objection to the European integration project of transferring powers to a supranational body such as the EU, but there is opposition to the EU’s current or future trajectory based on the further extension of competencies that the EU is planning to make”.

 

In other words, the soft euro-scepticism is expressed in the shape of a  “Yes, but…“.

 

 

Classifications of euro-scepticism

 

Different classifications have been put forward:

 

  • “Identity-based” euro-scepticism, closely linked to the above mentioned integration dilemma involving a contradiction between national identity and European identity and including a fear of being “absorbed” by the supranational institution like the EU thereby loosing national sovereignty.

 

  • “Cleavage-based”, linked to main dividing lines in society, e.g. town-country, work-capital, religion-secularism etc. People living in the country tend to be more euro-sceptical. The socio-economic cleavages include the distinction between transformation “winners” versus “transformation” losers.

 

  • “Policy-based” or “functional euro-realism”, i.e. some resistance against concrete policies and single issues, e.g. the CAP, the common currency, the euro and/or demands from the EU for transition-periods for the movement of labour. In some cases we are dealing with “single issue scepticism”, i.e. sceptical attitudes to the EU on one main issue, e.g. agriculture, the buying of land, environment, moral questions, etc.

 

  • “Institutionally” based, i.e. based on the legitimacy of national versus EU institutions. Low confidence in national institutions may increase the support to EU institutions and to the EU as a whole.

 

  • “National interest-based”, including a contradiction between common European goals and national goals, e.g. in the case of negotiations about the EU “la finalité”. In case of national interest based euro-scepticism, the main goal is to defend vital national interests in spite of a weakening of the common European project.

 

  • “Experience based”, i.e. the feeling that the negotiations about membership of the EU have been unfair and asymmetric and the final result of the negotiations for that reason imposed.

 

  • “Party-based”, formed top-down from political parties and charismatic political leaders using either neoliberal  (“thatcheristic”), anti-modern traditionalist or left-populist argumentation.

 

  • “Atlantic-based”, the feeling of a contradiction or dilemma between pro-Americanism and pro-Europeanism, e.g. in case of the establishment of a common European foreign and security policy.

 

  • And finally, what I call a “practice-based” Euro-scepticism. Here we find no principal resistance to the EU and Europeanisation, but Europeanism is defined in a “national” way and different from that of Brussels and demanded by the EU according to the “mainstream” interpretation of the Copenhagen criteria. This type of euro-scepticism was followed by Slovakia under Mečiar.

 

Source: My own classification inspired by the classification made by Aleks Szczerbiak and Paul Taggart.

 

 

Political parties and Euro-scepticism

 

Studies of Euro-scepticism have often focused on the attitudes and strategies of political parties. Politics just after 1989 was characterised by weak parties and “non party systems”. Many new politicians tended to be “moral politicians” and politics was marked by identity politics. Most political parties were established almost overnight and without any close links to the most important groups in society. Antipolitics and the fight against the old system were still striking. The numerous broad anti-communist movement parties, e.g. the popular fronts in the Baltic countries, Solidarity in Poland and the Civic Forum in the Czech Republic all referred to patriotism, national values and anticommunism.

 

 

 

Figure 2: The three party-based dimensions of euro-scepticism.

 

 

Under these circumstances “future directed” policies played a minor role. The slogan “Back to Europe” became an integrated part of the new anticommunist discourse. Thus, in most countries the first free elections were won by using primarily anticommunist symbolic slogans, as the first free elections mostly were referenda for or against the old systems and not election between parties. Later national elections became more retrospective and politics in general more “ordinary” and interest-based.

 

After some time, the voters to a greater extent emphasized good governance and the ability to communicate when making their party choices at the elections. As said, concurrently with the transition to more “ordinary” politics, elections became more retrospective and less symbolic and abstract. Most “euro-enthusiastic” seemed to be the reformed communists. Gradually euro-realism, euro-apathy and even euro-scepticism became more striking. Thus, throughout Europe, and especially in Eastern Europe, the elections to the European Parliament in June 2004 failed to arouse any enthusiasm or passion.

 

Roughly speaking, three types of party based euro-scepticism emerged, a neo-liberal, a traditionalistic conservative and a left populist. As shall be seen in the following, ODS in the Czech Republic has expressed soft euro-scepticism and even euro-realism, The League of Polish Families (LPR) conservative traditionalism, and the Czech Communist Party (KSČM) has been euro-sceptic in the more left popular variant. To a large extent the upcoming party-based euro-scepticism was policy- and experience-based and, moving closer to EU accession, also became more national interest-based.

 

In other words, the attitudes to the EU gradually became more practice- and policy-related and less symbolic and abstract. Under the negotiations about the EU’s new treaty constitution, the small EU-countries emphasized keeping their own EU-commissioner and securing the Commission more power at the expense of the Council of Ministers, which by the small countries is seen as the large countries’ “battlefield”. In the accession countries themselves, policy questions related to the EU never became the decisive ones at national elections. Thus, social frustrations mostly made an impact on national elections and domestic politics and thus rarely were reflected in the popular attitudes to the EU as such.

 

Also in the EU-15 countries, EU questions played no crucial role at national elections, mostly in case of Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries. As noted above, in the new member countries EU questions became “valence issues”, in which case all relevant parties agree on the common goal, i.e. the EU membership. In most cases, discussions and disagreements concerned the extent to which the governments had done their “home-work”, e.g. sufficiently defended national interests in negotiations with the EU. Only few parties declared themselves hard euro-sceptics, i.e. against the membership of the EU as such. More problematic was the lack of interest and apathy concerning the EU. Thus, at the referenda about membership, the political elite more feared the non-voters than the no-votes.

 

Szczerbiak and Taggart take as their point of departure some working hypotheses, which they want to test without knowing the final conclusions, as there have been no scientifically verified answers.

To the most important belongs:

 

  • Party’s position on the left-right scale is not decisive when determining whether a party shall be considered as euro-sceptic or not.

 

  • The place in the party system plays a crucial role. Normally outsider parties express hard or soft euro-scepticism.

 

  • Euro-scepticism on party level does not necessarily follow the extent of euro-scepticism in the population; in other words, euro-scepticism can be expressed differently on the elite and the popular level.

 

  • Euro-scepticism tends to be strongest in states, which are within close reach of EU membership.

 

  • Hard euro-scepticism is less widespread than soft.

 

  • Resistance to the EU among parties is strongest in states that are new nation states.

 

  • Variations on the form and strength of euro-scepticism work differently from country to country.

 

 

Some of the classifications and working hypotheses mentioned above will be included in the following sections.

 

“Outsider” parties have been defined differently and among these parties resistance against the EU has not been decisive, as outsider parties do not necessarily constitute “protest parties”. In the case of “protest parties”, like “Smer” in Slovakia, “Respublica” in Estonia, and “New Era” in Latvia, we are dealing with protest parties, mostly criticising the bad governance of the parties in government, but these parties are relevant parties as they feel able to take over government responsibilities, maybe constituting national interest-based EU-realists, but nonetheless supporting future EU-membership. The Hungarian extreme right wing party MIÉP, on the contrary has followed a clearly “hard” euro-sceptic line, but its strong euro-scepticism has only been one of several sides of the xenophobia that has characterized the policy of the party. More important for MIÉP than the EU have been questions connected to the Hungarian minorities in the neighbouring states, in particular Slovakia and Romania.

 

The Slovak party, “The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia” (HZDS), belongs to the parties that in their official statements speak about Europeanisation, but in their behaviour express “anti-Europeanism” due to internal political reasons, e.g. in questions about the rights of minorities. Thus, the euro-scepticism of HZDS tends to be “practice related”. In the programme declarations and election manifestos of the party there has been much talk about a unified Europe, which guarantees freedom, peace and security, promotes economic growth and social justice and, at the same time, guarantees the invulnerability of existing frontiers and territorial status quo. Thus, the picture of Europe is “coloured” in national values and national interest. HZDS can hardly be placed on left-right scales such as in most West-European countries, in spite of the fact that also here the right-left divide has become blurred.

 

As regards Slovakia, EU-scepticism has not increased the closer the membership of the EU came. The main problem has been a general lack of public debate and widespread apathy as regards EU. Not even in the case of protest parties like “Smer” have EU questions played a crucial role. The polarization of the political scene has mostly been caused by the many conflicts and a general lack of loyalty and coherence among the political elites and by the use of social and economic issues for mainly political purposes. In other words, the hypothesis that right-left does not have any real impact as regards the policy choices and strategies of political parties can be confirmed in the case of Slovakia.

 

Also in the case of the Hungarian party, FIDESZ, has it been no easy task to separate “euro-realism” from “soft” euro-scepticism. FIDESZ was the ruling party between 1998 and 2002 and constitutes the strongest opposition party in the Hungarian parliament today.  Before the 2002 election, and later when working in opposition to the socialist-liberal government after the 2002 election, FIDESZ’ leader Viktor Orbán has several times expressed views, which have been considered  “euro-sceptical”.

 

Before the Hungarian referendum about the EU membership, he declared that Hungary in principle could have remained outside the EU. That declaration was strongly criticized by both socialists and liberals. After the 2002 election, Orbán repeatedly became a spokesman of a Europe of nation states, defending inter-governmentalism and raising the question of whether the EU needed a new treaty. He also raised the questions of the Beneš decrees and, when in government, proposed the controversial “status laws” involving special rights in Hungary for the Hungarian diaspora. As in the case of HZDS in Slovakia, also in FIDESZ we can observe practice related euro-scepticism determined by the domestic political agenda thereby neglecting or even contradicting “Europe-ness”. When speaking in West-European countries, Viktor Orbán behaved more like a standard “good European”.

 

The more refined delimitation of the concept “Europeanisation” decides to what extent acts and declarations should be interpreted as interest-based euro-scepticism, or only as a normal defence of national interests and as a part of the “political game” without any great impact. The limit is unclear, but not impossible to draw. Real reservations against the EU as a project have not been striking in the case of FIDESZ. Rather soft euro-sceptical declarations have been part of an electoral game. In the case of FIDESZ we are in reality rather dealing with a normal defence of national interests. In Hungary EU questions have in general been valence issues, for, if we disregard MIÉP, the questions have not been related to EU membership as such, only the handling of EU-questions by the government, i.e. its ability to negotiate successfully with the EU and to defend national interests. The soft euro-scepticism that has been seen has mainly been emanating from right wing parties (MIÉP and FIDESZ). Thus, contrary to Slovakia, euro-scepticism can be said to follow the right-left divide.

 

National identity, Europeanisation and euro-scepticism in the region as a whole

 

The party-based euro-scepticism is closely linked to the dominant attitudes and discourses in society as a whole and clearly connected to the ideological uses of history. Successive generations have been moulded to see the past in certain ways. To a large extent the relationship between Germany and France has been linked to memories of wars between the two countries. In the new EU member countries from the East, the “We versus Them” dimension has been closely connected to the communist and pre-communist past, the Soviet Union and neighbouring states, and, in the case of Hungary, especially to Slovakia and Romania. The Serbs proudly spoke about their resistance to the Turks when defending their politics in Kosovo, the Romanians talked about their Dacian past and Latin alphabet. The Bulgarian Revival in the 19th century (until 1878) and the uprising in 1876 present a source of coveted symbolic capital, the building of Bulgarian self-identity and the anchoring of the collective “we” (Daskalov 2004). For most Slovenians the Yugoslavian past, not Europe, constitutes the negative “Other”. During Slovenia’s negotiations with the EU, some problems arose concerning its relations to Italy, which for a time blocked negotiations between the EU and the applicant countries from the East. The problems were due to the unresolved restitution questions connected to the issues of buying of land by foreigners in Slovenia. In the conflict between Slovenia and Italy, the EU Commission became the mediator.

 

 

Figure 3: Post-communist identities

“We versus Them”:  the official system versus opposition, low consensus in society

 

“I”:                             short-term individual strategies are dominant

 

”Ourselves”:                identities are formed within social groups, collective feelings predominant

 

“I-We”:                       own identity confronted with group-identity

 

“I myself-the others”:  “national egoistic” short-term thinking

 

 

In countries like Slovakia and the Baltic countries national identity were formed by the circumstances leading to independence and the need to fill out of the discursive vacuum, caused by the collapse of the old state socialist systems. The integration dilemma has not played any crucial role in the case of Slovakia, rather a fear of being kept “outside” of the European integration process as a whole. Territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers have gained a high priority due to widespread fear of Hungarian revanchism and in practice higher than in the case of EU-related subjects, but those subjects can hardly be integrated in a common European identity. As regards attitudes to the European problems, differences between political elites and civil societies have not been important. The main problem has been high apathy and low interest in EU-related subjects. Neither the hypothesis, that newly independent states are characterized by a relatively high euro-scepticism can be confirmed in case of Slovakia. Slovakia became independent in 1993, but persistently strived to catch up with the other applicant states after having been “frozen out” of Europe under the rule of Mečiar.

 

Some post-communist states have based their new post-communist identity on memories and myths all going back to pre-communist times. Patriotic feelings, the defence of the rights of Hungarian diasporas, respect for national symbols have all been regarded as important for calling oneself a “true Hungarian” (Kiss 2001). Hungary, it has been argued, has always been a part of the West and a bulwark against penetrating “outsiders”, e.g. the Turks, only for a short time forcefully being separated from the West. However, for Hungary it has not been easy to accept the present territorial frontiers, decided at the Trianon peace conference just after WWI. Thus, former Prime Minister József Antall frankly declared that he considered himself as the spiritual leader of all Hungarians, i.e. also of those Hungarians living abroad. Some observers saw entering the EU as a solution to the “Trianon-problem” due to the breaking down of existing territorial and mental frontiers and the free movement of persons.

 

More about national identity: Europeanisation and euro-scepticism in Poland

 

Poland belongs to the largest and most complicated among the new EU member countries. In many ways Poland seems like some of the old EU countries, expressed as: the Poles are stubborn like the Spaniards, arrogant like the French and euro-sceptics like the British. Also for the Poles, the old bulwark thesis, referring to the argument that in the history of Europe, the Poles several times defended Christianity against penetration of outsiders, especially from the East, has played a crucial role, not least on a symbolic level. This perception has forged a spiritual community and aroused a feeling of belonging, clearly manifested during the negotiations about the new constitutional treaty of the EU by the Polish demand of inclusion of Christian values in the preamble of the new treaty constitution.

 

Poland is different from the other new EU member countries not only in size, but also in its attitude to Europe and Europeanisation in general, and not least in the way to negotiate. Instinctively most Poles seem to behave like inter-governmentalists, i.e. being in favour of state- to-state cooperation, like Gaullists in France or British conservatives, being spokesmen for interstate cooperation and a Europe of homelands without federal structures and including a certain amount of atlanticism and close bonds to the US. Thus, Polish soft euroscepticism to a large extent has been Atlantic-based.

 

Since 1980, national identity has to a great extent been influenced by the Solidarity movement or the Solidarity myth. From the outset, Solidarity did not only constitute a trade union in the normal sense, but more a patriotic movement fighting for the liberation of Poland from communist rule. After 1989, Solidarity took over governmental responsibilities and became the ruling party, thereby deciding the speed and form of transition.  Ideologically Solidarity repeatedly spoke in favour of returning to Europe, however, in several cases the national appeals and the economic and social policy from the movement deviated from the demands from Brussels. Conversely in the case of the Slovak Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Solidarity never came under heavy fire from the EU, maybe because of political “self-limitation” and pragmatism and the fact that Solidarity was regarded as the leading force in the fight for the liberation of Poland from communism.

 

From the outset, the formulation about a solidary EU (i.e. money from the EU) and an inter-governmentalist and transatlantic oriented EU with a continuous American military presence in Europe had a strong appeal in Poland. After some time most politicians and negotiators gained a more realistic picture of what the EU really is about, and that one condition of electoral success is to give the voters at least the impression that vital Polish interests are strongly defended.

 

Support for EU-membership had a clear institutional side. For many voters strong European institutions might compensate for low support for domestic political institutions, e.g. national parliament and political parties. As shown by figure a great majority of the Poles support EU institutions much higher than national institutions. Only the presidential institution obtained a high popular support. Regarding support of national versus EU institutions, the Polish population is closer to “italianization” than “scandinavianization”, for also in Italy low support of national institutions has been “compensated” with higher support of the European ones. For many East European citizens common European institutions are better able to secure a “catching up” in welfare and modernisation than national institutions. Polish euro-scepticism to a large extent seems to have been identity-based, to a smaller extent institutional connected to the integration dilemma and an “instinctive” support for the intergovernmental principles. Polish euroscepticism has also to some extent been policy-based and been the result of popular demands for better safeguarding of national interest under the negotiations with the EU about EU-accession. The cleavage-based euro-scepticism has mostly been expressed by the relatively strong resistance of the rural population to EU membership.

 

Before the EU referendum some feared that the question about EU-membership or not would develop into a referendum for or against the transformation in Poland itself, in which case the transformation losers would transfer their social frustrations to the EU thereby setting up barriers for Polish EU-membership. However, in the end, EU-membership was supported by a large majority of those going to the ballot boxes. Even among Polish farmers, there was a majority for EU-membership, yet not a great one. Opinion polls, conducted after the Copenhagen summit in December 2002, have not changed, though the majority of Poles also shared the opinion that Poland was not sufficiently prepared for the EU membership.

 

As we know, Poland caused some trouble during the Copenhagen summit, and, already one year later, during the EU-summit in Rome, Poland together with Spain vetoed the proposal about a new treaty constitution and the new voting principles, which on the demand of Germany would change the voting rules in the Council of Ministers decided upon in Nice, thus adhering to the famous slogan about “Nice or die” formulated by Jan Rokita and the Civic Platform (PO) in the Polish parliament.

 

The issue of Poland and the new Europe has been eagerly discussed mostly among intellectuals. Bronisław Geremek, former foreign minister and member of the think tank about Europe, established by former prime minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt to prepare the EU Convention, argued that after 40 years of state socialism, membership of the EU has simply become a “must” for Poland. However, many Poles still have the feeling that EU-15 do not want Poland as a member, which means that some of the EU apathy and scepticism tend to be experience based. In other words, the “old Europe” must express more understanding for the situation in the future EU member countries. Geremek also referred to the negative experiences from the accession negotiations, and said:

 

”I don’t think that one can exclude from politics the social psychology as a factor. It wouldn’t be good to accept candidate countries after, I would say a depressive process of negotiation which will leave the public of these countries feeling humiliated“… Continuing passivity within the European Union, the passivity of its citizens towards European politics would have a disastrous effect”. (Source: “Radio Netherlands”, 14th December 2001, www.rnw.nl)

 

In the parliament elected in 2001, the euro-sceptical parties gained a rather strong parliamentary representation. Thus, the then new catholic euro-sceptical party The League of Polish Families (LPR) and populist agrarian movement “Selfdefence” (Samoobrona) led by Andrzej Lepper came out with strong euro-sceptical statements and the criticism has not silenced after the election. Self-defence (Samoobrona) has put forward an extremely policy-based euro-scepticism, while the League’s criticism has been stronger and much more identity-based. Thus, in the case of Poland euro-scepticism has mostly been expressed by the “outsider parties”. As already mentioned, the resistance to the EU on the part of LPR has been strong and identity-based, while Selfdefence (Samoobrona) in principle supporting Polish EU-membership, but not accepting the conditions offered by the EU-15.

 

The third among the new parties, The Law and Justice Party (PiS), in principle supported EU membership, but was against the EU Convention’s proposal of a new Union Treaty, and demanded a referendum about the new treaty and spoken strongly in favour of a “Europe of nation states”. First, the party recommended a no at the EU referendum, but changed its position to a “yes” shortly before the day of the referendum. At the 2004 election to the European Parliament PiS obtained 16,42  % of the votes and 10 seats in parliament. The liberal Citizen’s Platform (PO) tend to behave more “European”, but has spoken in favour of better defence of Polish national interest and launched the famous slogan “Nice or dead” when debating the new EU constitutional treaty proposal. At the 2004 election to the European Parliament, PO came out as the largest party, obtaining 23,48  % of the votes and 15 seats.

 

The Peasants Party (PSL) has been split in the question about membership and especially on the conditions of the membership. The scepticism that has come forward, has mostly dealt with the question about sale of land to foreigners and financial support to Polish farmers from the EU. At the 2004 election to the European Parliament, PSL obtained 6,88 % of the votes and 4 seats. In other words, the euro-scepticism has been soft and policy related. Inside the then ruling parties, the SLD and the Labour Union (UP), no distinct hard and soft euro-sceptical factions have been found, but due to the weak position of the government in parliament and according to the opinion polls, the two parties were exposed to “blackmailing” from the more euro-sceptical parties like PO, PiS and Samoobrona. However, euro-scepticism has been more striking among the social democratic voters than among the party leaders. The weak position of the left was confirmed at the election to the European Parliament in June 2004, where SLD-UP together obtained only 9,11 % of the votes and 5 seats. The new social democratic “defector party”, Poland’s Social Democratic Party (SDPL), obtained 5,07 % of the votes and 3 seats. The participation in the Polish election was modest, only 20 %.

 

At the end of the negotiations, the blackmailing potential and the strength of the opposition became stronger. The different attitudes of the political elite and demands of a strong defence of Polish national interests were reflected in the population as a whole. In other words, the political parties aimed to bring their EU policies in accordance with the attitudes of the electorate and the most important social groups. As said, most people shared the opinion that the governments should better defend vital Polish national interests and that Poland was not sufficiently prepared for membership. Furthermore, the many “trade wars” between Poland and the EU and the criticism from the EU side of the insufficient implementation of the aquis communautaire in Poland inevitably reinforced euro-sceptical attitudes in the population. The extent of euro-scepticism has been fluctuating over time, it even increased in 1999, but was lowered towards the end game of accession negotiations.

 

Since the end of the 1990s, the Catholic church leaders have supported Polish EU-membership thereby aiming at eradicating the impression of many believers that ethical values, and Polish patriotism underlining national suffering and the bulwark thesis, cannot be upheld in case of EU-membership. Thus, before the EU referendum the Church encouraged the Polish population to say “yes” to EU-membership. However, the leadership of the Church had to fight against rather strong anti-Semitic and anti-German feelings based on the rather strong national-democratic tradition (“Endecja”), including the fundamentalist and xenophobic messages, in most cases originating from the “bottom” of the Catholic church and brought to people by e.g. the fundamentalist “Radio Maryja”.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4: Degree of trust and distrust in national and EU institutions in Poland

 

Source: The Polish newspaper ”Gazeta Wyborcza” 4 August 2003 in cooperation with the opinion polling institute CBOS.

 

As we know, Poland’s behaviour during accession negotiations and the negotiations about the constitutional treaty has been the object of much domestic and internal debate. Some reactions have been sharp as well as confrontational, but the conclusions have normally been inconclusive. From Germany and France there was a talk about enhanced cooperation among the “old” EU countries, while the British reactions have been more accommodating. Also the comments in the European press have varied. The German Süddeutsche Zeitung did not hide its frustrations and declared openly that Poland’s insistence on keeping the voting rules decided in Nice showed that the Polish government does not understand, that the principle about leaving some sovereignty to the EU is the secret behind the success of the EU and the European project as a whole, and subsequently warned that the end result might be the establishment of a “core Europe” with Germany and France as the core. Others, such as Frankfurter Algemeine, criticized Poland’s behaviour more moderately and declared that the break down in Rome showed us that the EU with 25 countries and more would simply make a further deepening of integration impossible. And the French Liberation argued that the French-German motor has lost its original strength, and that euro-scepticism seems to grow stronger.[1]

 

In Poland itself only few put question marks at the “tough” negotiating line of the government. Most important was to “keep the flag high”. In the foreign policy general debate in the Polish parliament in January 2004 foreign Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz declared that Poland “today stands stronger than ever before”. The most crucial foreign policy goals, he argued, have been to enhance national sovereignty, normalize the relationship to neighbouring countries, enhance regional cooperation and foster security and social welfare by entering NATO and the EU and these goals have all been implemented.[2] For geo-strategic reasons it has been important for Poland to impact the EU’s new neighbour policy and bring to Ukraine the EU-membership perspective, thereby avoiding being EU’s new “frontline-state” to the East. These national interest based policies do not necessarily correspond to the prevailing priorities in the EU-Commission and among the EU-15 countries, where national sovereignty and further EU-expansion to the East are not especially high on the political agenda.

 

Only the two populist parties in the Polish parliament, Selfdefence (Samoobrona) and the League of Polish Families (LPR) criticized the outlines put forward by the government, demanding an even harder line in the negotiations with the EU. The League of Polish Families (LPR) requested legal proceeding against the then Prime Minister, Marek Belka due to the Polish government’s support for the compromise on the European constitutional treaty at the EU summit in Ireland in summer of 2004. Also the Peasants Party (PSL) and the party chairman, Janusz Wojciechowski, rejected the compromise, calling the government’s foreign policy “weak” and out of touch with the mood in the parliament and the population, but did not support the demand about legal proceedings against the Prime Minister.

 

The national interest-based policy line was basically supported by the two “responsible” opposition parties, Citizen’s Platform (PO) and Law and Justice Party (PiS). Nothing indicates, that the negotiation tactics will become more “soft” after establishment of a centre right government. PO and PiS support Polish EU-membership, but have demanded a hard line in the negotiation about a new EU constitutional treaty and have spoken in favour of Polish foreign policy activism and stricter defence of national interests, yet without being placed in the group of hard and soft euro-sceptical parties. The “hard” line of negotiating with the EU was supported not only by the two opposition parties PO and PiS, but also by some intellectuals such as the chief editor of the largest Polish daily newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza”, Adam Michnik, who has mainly been directed his attention to the alleged “arrogance” of France towards Poland, and in general been “British” and pro-Atlantic”.

 

The two main opposition parties, the Civic Platform (PO) and the Law and Justice Party (PiS) have underlined their hard line also in the case of the appointment of Danuta Hübner, Minister of Euroean Affairs in Leszek Miller’s government, to the first Polish EU-commisioner, arguing that Hübner behaved too “soft” under negotiations with the EU system and, in fact, more served the interests of France and Germany than Poland’s. It has been said, that when former EU President Romano Prodi talked about the need of more women in the EU-Commission, he was thinking about Danuta Hübner.[3] The alternative was to appoint the “hardliner” like Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, member of the Citizen’s Platform (PO).

 

Atlantic based euro-scepticism has been striking. The participation in the war in Iraq, the choice of US F-16 fighters in the “arms deal of the century” and the veto at the EU summit in Rome fostered considerable self-confidence inside the foreign policy establishment. As mentioned above, on one hand it cannot be called “euro-sceptical”, but on the other hand it does not promote European integration and the formation of a separate European foreign policy profile. France and Germany’s sympathy for Russia’s demands concerning the status of Kaliningrad after EU enlargement raised indignation in Warsaw and Vilnius and gave an impetus for more policy-based euro-scepticism. Neither did the agreement between the EU Commission and Russia in April 2004 go down well in Poland and the Baltic states. It has to be taken into consideration that the close relationship between Poland and the US went from bad to worse as Poland lost some tenders concerning sale of equipment to the new Iraqi army, and the US government rejected to liberalize its visa policy to Poland despite Poland’s status as “friendly” country because of Polish participation in the occupation of Iraq. Furthermore, Poland has called for more financial support and better equipment to the Polish military forces. In addition, the loss of several Polish citizens’ lives in Iraq has not heightened the aim of staying in Iraq. More parties are now openly demanding withdrawal from Iraq. A move to improve the relationship to the more war sceptical “old Europe”, most of all Germany and France, may happen. Thus, Poland may move some way towards the “old Europe”, but close relations to the US and continued US military presence in Europe seem to remain a high priority for Poland, regarded as a guarantee for hard security, better opportunities for influence in Ukraine and as a limitation of French and German (and Russian) domination on the European scene.

 

The above-mentioned Polish foreign policy activism has activated the so-called “integration dilemma”, on the one hand a fear of being “excluded”, on the other hand a fear of being “absorbed”. Repeatedly there has been expressed a fear not only of a French-German dominance in Europe, but maybe also an even greater fear of a “Berlin-triangle”, an “intergovernmental directoire” consisting of the three biggest EU-countries, France, Germany and Poland’s ally in the Iraq war, Great Britain, which might include security and foreign policy questions and undermine Poland’s close relations to Britain, also the British “understanding” of Polish requests concerning the future shape of the European project[4].

 

At the conference, which took place in the presidential palace in February 2004, there was a discussion, how Poland may avoid the integration dilemma and the “deadlock” in its relations to the EU. New elements to the debate were not brought to light, but former prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki spoke in favour of a “defence of Nice”, but not to “die for Nice” as proclaimed by Jan Rokita and PO, as close cooperation was crucial for Poland. There was a risk of being isolated and marginalized. Therefore a new political slogan was proclaimed, “For a strong Poland in a strong EU”.

 

In general, the official “semi-sceptical” and activist line, has been criticized, e.g. in the open letter from October 2003 subscribed by 2000 citizens, mainly intellectuals supporting the Convention draft to a new constitutional treaty. Open criticism of the official Polish position has also been put forward by two former foreign ministers Andrzej Olechowski and Dariusz Rosati (to day MEP’s), expressing a fear of Polish isolation and marginalization in the EU and expressing a resistance against the fragile alliance with Spain on the constitutional draft, arguing in favour of stronger Polish support for the Weimar triangle and the Visegrad-cooperation. Before the EP election in June 2004, Bronislaw Geremek, former foreign minister (like Dariusz Rosati elected to the European Parliament in 2004), argued that future Polish Euro-deputies should spare no effort to avert the threat of a multi-speed Europe, for

 

“A two-speed Europe would mean that new members of the EU, Poland among them, will stay in a room watching through the windows of what is happening in this European Union, in the centre of European integration, this best speed of the EU.”[5]

 

Mateusz Stachura pointed out the contradiction between on the one hand refusing to offer the big countries in the EU better voting rights and on the other hand demanding more money from the bigger EU member states, thereby also pointing out a contradiction between the aim of a more “solidaric” EU spending more money for poor countries and at the working against further deepening of integration.[6]  Poland appears, maybe not intentionally, like a cool calculating “money thinking” and euro-sceptical country. It will be a major task to change that picture of Poland in the EU-15 countries.

 

According to Marek Ostrowski, the slogan about “Nice or die” and the negative comments on the constitutional draft have not set in motion any constructive debate about the future of Europe, but rather brought old stereotypes, historic wounds and national phobias to the surface. The consequence, argues Slawomir Sierakowski, chief editor of Krytyka Polityczna may be a further marginalization of Poland, and the appearance of a multi-speed Europe led by France, Germany and maybe Great Britain.[7] As noted above, the Polish government seemed to listen to those arguments, at least to some extent.

 

President Alexander Kwaśniewski strived to balance between euro-scepticism, a national interest- based foreign policy and the inevitable national self-limitation in relation to the EU’s greatest countries. Commenting on the break down on the Rome EU summit in December 2003, he openly and honestly declared that Poland stick to the Nice agreement primarily because of a fear of a dominance of the strongest (Germany, France and Great Britain). Germany, he continued, aimed to change the decisions from Nice as Germany in the longer run may not count on support from Great Britain, Poland and maybe even France. In short, distrust seems to constitute the main problem for Europe.[8] The passing of a resolution in the Sejm in September 2004 on Germany demanding more economic compensation because of German occupation in the Second Wold War once again evidenced a cooling down of the German-Polish relations shortly after Poland’s accession to the EU and NATO. Europe, Kwasniewski continued, not only fears competition from the US but also fears itself. After the change of government in Spain in March 2004, Poland lost its most important ally in the issue of the war in Iraq and the negotiation about the constitutional treaty. However, the change of government in Spain paved the way for the compromise at the EU summit in Ireland in June 2004.

 

Euro-scepticism in the Czech Republic

 

After 1989, after 40 years of Communism, the Czechs quickly changed their attitudes to democracy, religion and history, and almost all topics could be questioned and were constantly changing. Until then, self-criticism had been rare, and it has not been moral victories and heroic uprisings, but rather the ability to survive the three hundred years under Habsburg rule, six years of nazi occupation and 43 years under Stalinism and post-stalinism, that has put its marks on national identity. Many Czechs feel that national identity has been “given” from outside, forced upon them by foreign great powers.  Thus, the claim that euro-scepticism is the greatest in new nation-building states can not be confirmed in the case of the Czech Republic, for the Czech Republic is not a country “without history” like in the case of Slovakia. Neither can the hypothesis be confirmed that euro-scepticism grows closer the membership of the EU, at least not to the full extent. Almost all participants of the Czech “Future of Europe debate” agreed on the fact that there is practically no alternative to the country’s entry to the EU. Compared to other candidate countries, the Czech debate seemed a more intense one and involved all key players on the political scene. As in the case of Poland, the enthusiasms for the  EU membership was the greatest in the early 1990s and decreased during the negotiations about membership and up to the EU referendum in the summer of 2003. Thus, in the Czech Republic, like in almost all other CEECs, the question about the entry to the EU became a “valency issue”.

 

There has been much talk about of the Czech “littleness” and the “small Czech man” (“malý český člověk”), both movingly described in the history about the Good Soldier Švejk. In addition, and more problematically, many find an inclination to silently or openly cooperate with occupation powers, to prefer the easiest solutions to complex problems, believe in “nothing”, move to internal exile, act in opportunistic ways when seeking the easiest and best ways of social and national survival. These negative characteristics seem to be more striking than heroism, national uprisings and active resistance, such as has been the case in Poland and Hungary and in those two countries have enhanced national pride (Drulák 2001: 24-25, Holý 1996: 130). In the more positive meaning, Czech intellectuals regard their country as democratic, civilized and cultural, situated at the crossroads between East- and West-Europe, and with the belonging to the West as the “normal order”. The deviation from that order has been explained as the “un-normal”, as the “negative otherness”.

 

As opposed to the Czechs, the Slovaks have been seen as a people “without a history” and historic consciousness. There have been references to the Moravian kingdom in the 9th century and missionaries St. Cyril and St. Method, the introduction of Christianity and national awakening in the 19th century, but these references are few. Thus, for the Slovaks we deal with “going to Europe”, not “returning to Europe” as in the case of the Czech Republic, who can proudly refer to the great bohemian kingdom in the Medieval ages and the democracy under Tomáš G. Masaryk in the mid-war years. In no less than 1000 years, the Slovaks were under strict Magyar rule and maybe for that reason they do not have the same heroes and no great uprisings like in the case of Poland and Hungary.

 

Soon after the Velvet revolution in 1989, the Czech Republic ran through a dramatic stage in a steady search for a new political identity and the best possible construction of the federation (Drulák 2001: 26). Furthermore, the Czechs and the Slovaks interpreted the “breakthrough” in 1989 and the Velvet revolution differently just like in the case of the Prague Spring and the years under “normalization”. Especially intellectuals supported the quickest possible “return to Europe” and transition to free market economy and establishment of a new functional federation according to the civic principles.

 

These aims, and especially the positive attitudes to free market economy were not shared by many Slovaks, who did not share the Czechs’ “enthusiasm” for a free market economy and in addition claimed more confederative construction. After the division of Czechoslovakia, the Czechs moved closer to the West. Czech Republic no more shared common borders with the former Soviet Union, and also the direct geographical link to the Danube area was gone. Thus, literally the Czech Republic became a part of the West-Europe, to which it, according to the official discourse, has always belonged.

 

Anti-communism was explained differently by the two “strong men” in Czech politics, former president Václav Havel and former ODS party leader and president of the country since 2002, Václav Klaus.  Also their “model-countries” were different. Havel gave high marks to the Scandinavian social-liberal welfare model, while Klaus was more “Anglo-Saxon” and neo-liberal minded and therefore critical to the “Scandinavian model”, which he could have examined as a visiting professor to Aarhus University in Denmark in the late 1980s (Hanley, 1999). Their opinions differed also in issues like the federation, the future of Europe and the way “back to Europe”.

In short, three different “tracks” in Czech foreign policy can be observed:

 

  • The pan-European about the undivided Europe without military pacts and with OSCE as pivotal point

 

  • The federal, the belief in a strong EU with functional institutions and backed up by a common European identity

 

  • The liberal eurosceptical (and euro-realist) with a EU with an internal market and “nothing else”

 

On the same line Kaj-Olaf Lang points out a “national realpolitik” focusing on taking care of Czech national interests and keeping national independence, much in line with the above-mentioned liberal euro-sceptical track. The second line he calls the “value-based moral policy line”, referring to the “non political politics” and the visions for Europe presented by former president Václav Havel. This line is close to the “federal” one. And, finally, he outlines a “European activist line”, based on flexibility, pragmatism and constructive cooperation and engagement when constructing the “new Europe”.

 

At the beginning Havel spoke about a pan-European system without military pacts and about a confederative Europe with OSCE as the pivotal point inspired by former President Tomáš G. Masaryk’s ideas about a Europe with “unity in differences”. Like the then Foreign Minister, Jiří Dienstbier, he flirted with a utopian vision of dismantling all existing European institutions and replacing them with a loose confederative structure (Hanley 2002). A revitalization of the old plans about a Polish-Czech confederation was also raised. Havel became an energetic spokesman of “euro-optimism” and “transatlanticism”, speaking in favour of a federal type of construction of Europe on the same line as the German foreign minister Joschka Fisher calling for a second chamber of the EP whose members would not be elected by direct ballot, but rather by the parliaments of the member states from their ranks. Havel spoke in favour of Czech membership of NATO and reinforcement of transatlantic connections. As regards the wars against Serbia and Iraq he argued along the US and British line.

 

At the end of the 1990’s, Havel expressed his concern that the Czech Republic might be left out in the competition to be an EU member in the first EU enlargement to the East. Therefore he opposed pacifism as well as euro-scepticism, that were gaining strength during the air strikes against Serbia and during the negotiations with the EU-Commission about membership with the EU, which were expressed not only by communists (KSČM) but also by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Criticism was not absent in speeches made by the president himself. Several times Havel paid attention to the issue of forming a common European identity. Thus, in a speech in the European Parliament in 1994, he said that for many Europeans the EU looks like a bureaucratic institution with mainly economic goals. Only few see the Union as a community of values. Therefore, he continued

 

That is why to me the perhaps most important task facing the European Union today is coming up with a new and genuinely clear reflection on what might be called European identity....“

 

and about the Maastricht treaty

 

“simply reading the Maastricht Treaty, despite its historical importance, will hardly win enthusiasm for the European Union. Nor will it win patriots...” ( Lesaar 2001: 188-189).

 

According to Václav Havel, the Maastricht Treaty seemed to be too “technical” and thus un-popular. Therefore, he spoke in favour of adopting a charter for the Union, which would emphasize the common European ideas and values and which would encourage popular support. In other words, the common European institutions and the technocracy should to a greater extent than up to now, adhere to democratic, moral and ethical values, thereby also lowering the democratic deficit.  Furthermore, Václav Havel warned several times against a new division of Europe after the first enlargement to the East. There ought to be one Europe despite the inevitable greater diversity. 

 

In the Czech Republic the visions for Europe put forward by the former president had some impact on the debate about the future of Europe and the role to play by the Czech Republic in spite of the limited power of the president according to the constitutional rules.  The Czech finalité debate tended either towards federal settlements or in the direction of intergovernmentalism, while former President Václav Havel’s supranational views seem to show some post-Westphalian characteristics. As we shall se in the following, federalist concepts have been the ones to which ruling Social Democrats and parties of the former Quad-Coalition (4K) have subscribed. The Civic Democratic Party has been the strongest proponent of intergovernmental co-operation and, according to ODS, it is in the internal market that national groups and enterprises have to compete.

 

The Czech negotiating way to the EU has not been signified by the same activism as in Poland. In general, the European policy and the attitudes to closer cooperation among the Visegrad countries have varied over time. The nation state line has dominated under the rule of Václav Klaus, while “flexibility” and “dynamism” have been key words under the social democrat-led governments. The social democrat-led government was not enthusiastic about the draft for a new constitutional treaty put forward by the European convention and, for that reason, called for a meeting in Prague with participation of smaller EU countries with the aim to strengthen the position of small countries in the “endgame” of the negotiations. Under the EU-summit in Rome, December 2003, the Czech Republic accepted the proposal for a new distribution of votes in the Council of Ministers, although not deploring the breakdown in Rome, argued that the decisions had been taken too quickly, without the necessary consultations. The statements from the government side, however, were not clear-cut. Some were “euro-sceptical” and some expressed the well-known fear by the smaller EU countries of a multi-speed or core Europe consisting of the “old” EU countries, primarily Germany, France and the Benelux.

 

As noted above, the party-based euroscepticism has until now mostly been connected with the communist party (KSČM) and to some extent the liberal Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the former ODS chairman and present president Václav Klaus. The xenophobic populist Republican Party (SPR-RSČ) of Miroslav Sládek lost parliamentarian representation at the 1998 election. The Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) did not gain seats in parliament at the first free election in 1990 and only a modest representation at the 1992 election. However, from the mid-1990s the situation changed, and at the 1998 election ČSSD became the largest single party. From the outset ČSSD spoke about Europe in almost enthusiastic ways. Thus, the chairman Miloš Zeman declared that the future lies in federalism, but Europe, he argued, must be “strong, flexible and diversified”.[9]  EU has to be more that just a market. It is in need of a common foreign and security policy and a common social and economic policy, including a common tax system. Furthermore, Europe needs an active industrial policy, a social dimension, and an intensification of the cooperation as regards a foreign and security policy.

 

Foreign minister until the 2002 election, Jan Kavan several times quoted former president Tomáš G. Masaryk’s formulation, that Europe shall become a “big union of great and small nations”, claiming that peace in Europe shall rest on close cooperation between former enemies like Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Europe shall be cooperative and “solidary” based on respect for national identities and a stronger role of the European Commission as initiator and engine for the EU integration. Kavan became a proponent of the community method with retention of intergovernmental decision-making at some levels and in some areas.[10] However, parts of the policy of the then social democratic government did not correspond with the “spirit” of the EU’s demands for free competition and a functional internal market such as the revitalization programme giving support to debt ridden state enterprises, also statements from the prime minister, Miloš Zeman, about the Beneš decrees, the expulsion of Czechoslovakia’s then 2.5 million-strong ethnic German population, and relations to Germany and Austria have been regarded as “euro-sceptical”. In 1999, in the EU progress report, the Czech Republic was criticized for the too slow and insufficient implementation of EU-laws and rules (the aquis communautaire), thereby fostering more euro-scepticism.

 

From the outset, the communist party (KSČM) followed an almost hard euro-sceptical line, but gradually that line became more “blurred” and even “softer”. At the same time, the resistance to Czech membership was sharpened much due to the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 and the war in Iraq from 2003. The proposals adopted at the 1999 party congress revealed the dilemma. On the one hand the form of EU integration was rejected, on the other hand it was argued that the Czech Republic should maximize its influence in the EU. Miroslav Ransdorf even spoke about a future “socialist Europe”, a vision that was rejected by the majority of delegates. In general, party members seemed to be more euro-sceptical than the party leaders. The criticism was mostly directed against the EU in its present shape, that is too much dominated by Germany and too liberal and bourgeois. In principle the party was not against EU integration, and there was also talk about further democratisation of EU’s institutions and about giving more power to the European Parliament. Due to its past KSČM remained an “outsider party”, but no longer distinctly anti-European, thereby moving closer to the Slovak sister party (KSS), which behaved more “pro-European”, but at the same time being strongly against the Slovak membership of NATO. Prior to the 2003 EU referendum, KSČM declared that it would respect the decision by the voters, knowing that the likely result would be a yes and about a quarter of the KSČM voters would vote in favour of Czech membership in the Union.

 

Thus, after the Czech referendum a qualitatively new situation emerged. On the one hand KSČM insisted that the Czech Republic was not sufficiently prepared for EU membership and that the Czech government to a too large extent yielded to the demands from Brussels. On the other hand the party would intensify the endeavours to reform the EU from “within”. In addition, a more accommodating line might have contributed to breaking of the political isolation. Yet persistent resistance to EU membership might be tempting, as resistance against the EU might increase in the first “hard years” after membership. In the first years the Czech Republic may even be a net-contributor to the EU budget. In other words, the EU strategy contained tactical and strategic dimensions. Miroslav Ransdorf, known for his “soft” EU line, became the EU-frontrunner and head of the campaign of the party at the EP election in June 2004 and arguing in favour of establishing a common European Left Party.

 

As said, much focus has been directed towards the policy of the main liberal party, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the “euro-sceptical” political entrepreneur, chairman until late 2002 and the present president, Václav Klaus. The statements from the party were rather EU-positive in the first years as the slogan about “return to Europe” had quite strong power of penetration. The main argument was that the Czech Republic was the “frontrunner” among the Central European countries, referring to the fact that the Czech Republic became the first full member of the OECD.

 

For that reason the ODS was sceptical about closer cooperation with the Visegrad-countries, especially with the more “foot-dragging” ones. At the same time the belief in an almost crisis free transition from plan to market gained strength and was one of the reasons for the more euro-critical, high-profile “Thatcherite” line in the second half of the 1990s. According to Klaus, the EU’s desire for supranationalism, manifested in the new treaties, indicated “left-collectivist” tendencies, exaggerated bureaucratisation and a false belief in the social democratic welfare state. ODS also opposed the development of a European defence capacity as unnecessary, impractical and undermining NATO. In short, the ODS euro-scepticism was mainly ideologically based. In many cases ODS used economic arguments, and the EU-scepticism was only to a small extent cleavage-based, as most ODS voters voted in favour of EU membership without the same reservations like Klaus.

 

Thus, by the end of the 1990s, the national “self-confidence” of ODS manifested itself in a still sharper criticism of the federal visions for Europe, a firm belief in the national state and a “Anglo-Saxon” neoliberalism inspired opposition to the talks of the introduction of a common currency. Also a mistrust of German influence in the EU came up. As regards the common currency, the Temelín nuclear power station and EU sanctions against Austria due to Haider’s Freedom Party’s participation in the government, ODS refused to follow the common EU line, which was regarded as interference in a sovereign state’s internal affairs.

 

The euro-realistic or euro-sceptical line may be most clearly manifested in the “Czech Euro-realist Manifesto”, formulated on the third “idea conference” in 2001, in which scenarios for Czech non-membership of the EU was contemplated according to the Norwegian or Swiss model. The Manifesto argued strongly against further extension of QMV, instead asking for existing national veto rights to be maintained as a tool for safeguarding national sovereignty. In the Manifesto, which was largely constructed by the foreign affairs spokesman Jan Zahradil, the EU in its present shape was signified by “lobbyism” and “corporatism”. Therefore, intergovernmentalism was the preferred construction. The euro-realistic line of the Manifesto also featured prominently in the 2002 election programme.

 

Later, during a visit in France in July 2003, i.e. after the take-over of the post as President and the introduction of the common currency in the EU, Klaus maintained his criticism of the EMU and the common currency, which according to him was no necessity depriving the countries the possibility of choosing their own monetary policy and decisions about the most proper exchange rates. In general, the convergence criteria were not suitable for countries that had lived 40 years under planned economies. In fact, the common currency was the main explanation of the economic recession in Europe and most of all a political project. Europe, he continued, simply lacked a common identity. Europe was in possession of its own currency but no common policy to back up the project. The inflexible monetary policy of ECB only reinforced the serious problems for the European economies.[11] Later, in a speech at the Passau University in Germany, Václav Klaus made clear, that the common currency primarily constitutes a political project, a “Trojan Horse” for harmonizing the economies, policies and law regulation. The lack of financial and economic discipline, he also argued, may easily do irreparable damage to the new fragile post-communist economies. He ironically and provocatively stated that the experience from the division of Czechoslovakia showed it is relatively easy and almost cost free to do away with a common currency.[12] Finally, during his official visit in Spain in September 2004 he once again claimed that the authors of the constitutional treaty based their ideas on false preconditions, such as the idea of a non-existent European identity. As regards the label of being a “Euro-sceptic”, Klaus said he prefers the terms “Euro-realist” and “Euro-naivist”, adding that the second group reminds him of those naïve people under the communists, “they had the same mentality”. In contrast, euro-realists like him believe that Europe has to be freer, more democratic and more efficient when it comes to productivity[13].

 

In addition, the support from the EU-15 to the bombing of ex-Yugoslavia in 1999, which according to Klaus grossly violated the sovereignty of Yugoslavia, was met by sharp criticism from ODS and brought the party on a collision course not only with the EU but also the US. Thus, Sean Hanley (Hanley, 2002) associates the rather strong euro-scepticism of ODS from the late 1990s with exactly the war against Serbia which questioned the quality of supranational decision-making and underlined the necessity of the right to say “no”. Furthermore, he argued that the euro-sceptical line should be seen in the light of the ongoing organizational problems within the party and the problems concerning formulation of consistent and long-term strategies. Those characteristics can be found also in other weakly institutionalised new centre-right political formations in Europe, signified by populist leadership, e.g. the Austrian Freedom Party, Forza Italia and some Gaullist associations in France.

 

To a great extent the euro-sceptical line was concentrated around a group of persons around the chairman Václav Klaus. To those belonged among others one of the party’s vice chairmen and spokesman in defence affairs, Petr Nečas, and the shadow foreign minister and leader of the election campaign before the 2004 election to the European Parliament, Jan Zahradil, a member of the euro-sceptical ant federal alliance of euro-critical movements “TEAM”, that consists of more than 40 cross-party political groups.[14] Zahradil has persistently argued against a transfer of more power to supranational institutions. As an example, he referred to an article in the French daily newspaper “Le Monde”, which pessimistically predicted that the EU after enlargement would be transformed to a free trade zone without much supra-state regulation. That development Zahradil saw as beneficial for a small country like the Czech Republic with a very open economy that would benefit from an internal market, but would be “absorbed” in a supranational federation.[15] In other words, the enlargement to the East might in fact constitute the best guarantee against more “deepening” and formation of a European “super-state”.

 

Thus, ODS’ scepticism has been strikingly ideological, closely connected to the “integration dilemma”, the fear of being “absorbed” and with a Anglo-Saxon type “Thatcherite” critique intending to keep the EU as an internal market and “nothing else”. As noted above, the resistance against further EU integration has been more striking among party leaders than among ODS voters, who according to opinion polls and the voting at the EU referendum on EU accession typically have belonged to the “transformation winners” and therefore to a great extent have been in favour of Czech EU membership, thereby confirming ODS’ euro-scepticism only to a small extent as cleavage-based. Nonetheless, some among the leaders of the party, e.g. former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, minister of finance Ivan Kočárník and the former dissidents Václav Benda and Jan Ruml, took a more pro-EU integration position.

 

After Václav Klaus’ resignation as ODS party chairman and the takeover of the post by Mirek Topolánek, the EU policy line became somewhat  “softer”. Mirek Topolánek criticized the result of the Copenhagen summit in December 2002, and later also expressed some reservation as regards the compromise on the constitutional treaty in June 2004. However, at the EU referendum he recommended a “yes” and as regards the constitutional treaty, he asked for some time for closer “studies”, arguing that the new European constitutional treaty must not be unduly hastened and that people should get one and a half to two years to study the constitution, indicating that the final result would be a “yes”, maybe the final decision would be taken after an ODS takeover of government responsibilities. In contrast, before the referendum Václav Klaus refused to recommend a “yes” or “no”, and his comments on the result of the EU referendum did not indicate any shift in attitude to EU integration at all. Václav Klaus’ “euro-sceptical” line brought him on a course of confrontation not only with former president Václav Havel, but also – and more seriously - with the then social democratic Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla and the Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, e.g. at the ceremony in Athens in April 2003 marking the signing of the accession treaties, in where the Czech government contrary to Klaus spoke in favour of developing a common foreign and security policy in the EU and a future rotating EU chairmanship.[16] It also attracted attention that Klaus did not take part in the ceremony in the National Theatre marking the Czech accession to the EU, on 1st May 2004.

 

Final remarks

 

As we have seen, questions concerning national identity and europeanisation have been the object of great and increasing attention. Until recently subjects connected to “euro-scepticism” have only been scantily explored, although we need not start from scratch due to the above mentioned cross-country research project (“Opposing Europe”), figures from Eurobarometer and several national opinion polls. The approach has shifted between rationalist, institutional, emphasizing each state’s policy and institutional choices and administrative structures, or social-constructivist with a focus on identity.

 

National consciousness and identity matter, but do not need to be separated from rationalist and interest based approaches. With time, along with a transition to more ordinary interest-based national policies and the adaptation to the EU, interest and institutional types of approaches seem to become more relevant. Symbolic policy was most striking about time of the demise of the old systems, also as regards questions connected to the future of Europe (“la Finalité). In the course of time, the East European political leaders and populations have behaved in more euro-pragmatic, more euro-realistic ways, in some cases rather on the basis of national interests and soft euro-scepticism.

 

Several research questions and working hypotheses have been raised, and in the course of time also better discussed and explored and defined. Some delimitations and definitions remain undecided, not least as regards the notion of “euro-scepticism”. Thus, it remains difficult clearly to say when we are talking about “normal safeguarding of national interests”, according e.g. to the Polish slogan about “Nice or die”, or soft or even hard euro-scepticism, in which cases at the EU project as such is questioned.

 

As we have seen, euro-scepticism has an institutional as well as an identity-based angle. Institutionalist as well as socialconstructivist approaches have been used. The integration dilemma has a special East European angle, for we are dealing with young states, with 40 years under communist rule and with a hope of a “return to Europe” and “catching up with the West”. Most East-Europeans tend instinctively to be intergovernmentalists (the fear of being “absorbed”) and atlanticists, but the hard euro-scepticism has not been widespread due to the fear of being kept “outside”. Accession to the EU has not solved the dilemma; being kept outside is now connected to second rank membership and development of a multi-speed Europe consisting of core and non-core member states. In addition, euro-scepticism has an institutional angle, as the mistrust to national institutions in most cases seems to be higher than to European (called “Italianisation”). In case the mistrust to national institutions is great, people seem to be more willing to leave some national sovereignty to the EU. Among EU-institutions, the small accession countries have received most support from the EU Commission, as the EU Council of Ministers is considered the “big countries’ club”.

 

The question about EU membership or not has been a “valence issue”, but nonetheless an integral part of the domestic policy game. These questions, which have split the parties and the voters, have concerned whether parties in government defended national interest strongly enough, e.g. when negotiating with the EU. If not, soft euro-sceptical declarations have been put forward, e.g. by the then centre-right opposition parties, Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic and FIDESZ in Hungary.

 

Thus, among the political parties we do not find many which we can call “hard euro-sceptical”. Several “soft euro-sceptical” parties have emerged, but the exact delimitation of hard and soft euro-scepticism and soft euro-scepticism and euro-realism is no easy task. In all circumstances, a change can be observed away from identity-based euro-enthusiasm, according to the slogan about “back to Europe”, toward a clearly more interest-based relationship to the EU, in some cases based on simple “cash thinking”. Euro-scepticism can be found in different forms. The cleavage-based and policy-based forms have been most striking in the case of the Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL) and in the more extremist form by Self-defence (Samoobrona), the identity-based and policy-based euro-scepticism by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic. Finally, the practice related euro-scepticism has signified the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HSDS) under Vladimír Mečiar and to some extent FIDESZ in Hungary.

 

By left-right standards, self-declared euro-sceptical attitudes can be found on both sides as regards the Czech Republic, most strikingly in case of ODS and KSČM. However, the exact boundary between euro-realism and euro-scepticism is blurred. In the case of Poland and Hungary, strong euro-scepticism belongs to the traditionalist Right, in Poland represented by the League of Polish Families (LPR) and in Hungary by Istvan Curka’s extreme right-wing party MIÉP. However, outsider parties and protest parties do not necessarily have resistance to Brussels as their key policy issue. More likely we are dealing with a voter protest against domestic politics and bad governance by the ruling parties, such as in Slovakia by strengthening the position of the party “Smer”, and in the Baltic countries by paving the way for the two protest parties New Era (Latvia) and Respublica (Estonia).

 

Finally, once more it has to be underlined that also attitudes to European politics have obtained more “ordinary” characteristics. As in domestic politics, EU-politics has become more interest- based and elections more retrospective. As regards EU-politics national interests have gained a high priority. EU-parliamentary elections in June 2002 reflected domestic politics. National governments and political parties today are mainly evaluated according to the quality of governance, not by their role under the communist rule. As the new EU member states have moved to more “ordinary politics”, politics connected to the EU to a still larger extent reminds us of EU politics in the “old Europe” and in the ”EU-15”.

 

 

Abbreviations of parties in the Czech Republic and Poland:

 

The Czech Republic:

ODS:  Civic Democratic Party

ODA: Civic Democratic Alliance

KSČM: Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia

ČSSD: Czech Social Democratic Party

KDU-ČSL: Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People’s Party

US-DEU: Freedom Union-Democratic Union

 

Poland:

SLD: Democratic Left Alliance

UP: Labour Union

PSL: Polish Peasant’s Party

PO: Citizen’s Platform

PiS:  Law and Justice

LPR: Polish Families League

SKL: Conservative People’s Party

UW: Freedom Union

 

 

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[1]Poznámky

An overview in BBC News 15 December 2003,  www.bbc.co.uk

[2] Minute in Gazeta Wyborcza 22 January 2004:8, ”Rzeczpospolita silna jak nigdy”.

[3] Minute e.g. in Cezary Gmyz, “Praktyczna pani, Danuta Hübner bedzie najlepszym komisarzym Unii Europejskiej- dla Francji i Niemiec”, Wprost, 31.12.2003.

[4] These questions are discussed in Gazeta Wyborcza, 4 February 2004:11, “Trójkat berlinski?”

[5] ”European elections important for Poland”, www.incentraleurope.com .

[6] Mateusz Starucha, ”Z zachodnieogo na nasze”, Gazeta Wyborcza, 10 February 2004:16.

[7] An overview of the EU debate in Inassa Kim, ”Poland continues to muse over the EU Constitution impasse”, www.tol.cz 22 January 2004.

[8] ibid.

[9] www.ceskenoviny.cz 15 March 2002, ”Diversity is EU’s asset, the future lies in federation”.

[10] Stated e.g. in Kavan’s speech at ”the European Policy Centre”, 22 February 2002, www.euroskeop.cz 30th April. 2002, ”The Future Functioning of the European Union.

[11] www.ceskenoviny.cz  21 July 2003,”Klaus describes adoption of the euro as ”unreasonable”.

[12] www.rferl.org/newsline, 11th February 2004.

[13] www.ceskenoviny.cz, 28th September 2004, “Klaus Says that Iraq shows there…” and “Klaus criticises European Constitution.“

[14] www.ceskenoviny.cz, 11th March 2002, ”EU enlargement will help prevent its further unification- Zahradil”.

[15] www.ceskenoviny.cz , 11th  March, 2002, ”EU enlargement  will help prevent its further unification- Zahradil“.

[16] www.ceskenoviny.cz ,  23rd  April 2003, ”Klaus-Svoboda meeting does not settle their dispute over EU”.



Copyright (c) 2004 Søren Riishøj

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