>Czech parties on integration and globalisation

> For my sins I have been reading the two main Czech parties’ views on the development of the EU après accession

The Social Democrats’ recent programme discusses the EU at length, arguing that accession had realised the ideals of Czechoslovakia’s founder Tomáš Masaryk, bringing security and economic growth at minimal social cost. The Social Democrats endorsed all aspects of integration, advocating a new process to adopt a EU Constitution; further tax harmonization; a Scandinavian-style European social model linked to the Lisbon Agenda, a strengthened role for national parliaments and the European Parliament and civil society; the further development of CFSP; and the adoption of the Euro by 2010. The party also stressed the need to prepare for Czech Presidency of the EU in 2009. The social model really is the focus of their concern. They are preoccupied with the risk of a race to the bottom – the need to avoid ‘social and tax dumping’ – caused by the pressures of globalization and a global economy by ‘multinational capital’ – not quite the language of the Third Way, although in office Czech Social Democrats are quite keen to have multinational capital in the country on their terms and offer it some fairly generous tax breaks.

ODS’s election programme dealt entirely with domestic reform but the telephone book sized Blue Chance programme of course has an extensive discussion from the pen of Jan Zahradil. Zahradil agrees that economic globalization is key, going so far as to say that international politics and international relations as having been ‘economized’: trade and economics were replacing traditional military power – this mean inter alia the transfer of foreign trade policy to rationalized and professionalized Czech Foreign Ministry and diplomatic service along more managerial and economic lines (17-22).

However, he is much less concerned about the pressures of globalization – not exactly embraced, but seen as a long term trend – and sees much more of clash between the interests of member states and much more of an inherent and insoluble problem of effectiveness in an enlarging EU

He thinks in a globalized world the national state – understood as ‘purely political (not ethnic) category’ – is a ‘useful tool’ because success in a globalized world did not imply integration into larger units but the retention by small states with open economies and national foreign policies allowing them to react quickly and flexibly to the challenges and risks of a complex, rapidly changing environment (4-5). The nation state also allows the ‘direct influence and control by voters of the conduct of national political elites’ and is incidental irreplaceable because ‘of a common national language, a commonly interpreted historical experience and the common national identity, which stem from these’ (3)

The idea that small country’s gain enhanced international political clout through membership of a global player like the EU is also dismissed Paradoxically, it argued, the very influence in world politics that attracts small states to the EU is undermining the EU’s capacity to be a coherent actor in international affairs, by creating an ever larger and more unwieldy Union less and less capable agreeing and pursing a clear foreign policy (unless it goes the whole hog and imposes) unreasonable restrictions on national sovereignty

Although Zahradil welcomes enhanced Czech influence within the EU following accession and full participation in the Single Market, he sees EU as policies uneven patchwork of liberalizing and regulatory measures in need of reform. The EU Constitution was rejected a tool for a ‘hard core’ of larger countries to pursue their own interests as its proposed voting mechanisms and extension of QMV would marginalize small countries, denying them the necessary flexibility to follow a national foreign policy (9-10). Instead ODS supported a multi-speed Europe made up of different groups of countries practicing varying levels of integration (10).

Czech foreign policy should be ‘realistic, practical and sober, devoid of messianism and altruism, for which it lacks realistic means’; focused on goals, rather than abstract notions of ‘rightness’; and judged in the light of the Czech Republic’s resources and geo-political position (6). It stressed the need for Czech European policy to focus on building coalition of like-minded countries within the EU to seek a more market-oriented, less federal EU. The Union’s ‘Northern tier’ (UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Baltic states) and Portugal were identified as natural allies (9-10, 14)

Zahradil displays a very range of different arguments and, although written earlier, his paper seems more defensive, as perhaps one would expect of a document which stands outside the EU mainstream and the prevailing trend of current integration. Its ‘realism’ seeks Czech as (best off as) a little country with global pretension, secured by a strong free market economy with its defensive needs, such as they are, underwritten by NATO. The stress is on bi-lateral relations with European states and some form of Neighbourhood Policy to secure the stability of borderlands

Jistoty a prosperity: Manifest ČSSD za silnou a jednotnou Evropu. Prague: ČSSD: 2006

Jan Zahradil, Realismus místo iluzí: modrá šance pro českou diplomacii. Prague: ODS, 2004

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