Olaf Scholz’s speech in Prague should not come as a surprise to anyone. The German chancellor put on the notorious song of the pushers of the EU mainstream. The European flašinet spun once again.
On August 29, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a speech in Prague’s KarolinEurope is our future” (“Europe is our future“). In it, he outlined his ideas about the future direction of the European Union – ideas that can be well summed up in one of his sentences: “When, if not now, should we create a sovereign Europe that can assert itself in a multipolar world?”.
In the world, it is said that all European states are too small by themselves to be able to assert their interests and values. We therefore need a sovereign, unified “Europe” (meaning the EU), which will be a strong geopolitical player and a technological leader. More than ever, this should be true against the background of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and with regard to the actions of China and other competitors. “We have to come together, overcome old conflicts and find new solutions.” “Together we have the perfect chance to put a European face on the 21st century and participate in its formation.”
According to Scholz, citizens expect a European Union that acts – for example, when it comes to a faster pace in climate protection (achieving EU climate neutrality by 2050 is said to be our “big goal” and a “unique opportunity” to be a pioneer in this field), for better protection of employees , “real solidarity” etc.
Referring to the current geopolitical situation and the prospect of future enlargement of the EU, the chancellor spoke in favor of reforms of the Union’s structures. According to him, the founding treaties of the EU are not set in stone. “If we come to the conclusion together that the treaties need to be amended to move Europe forward, then we should do so.” In particular, there should be a gradual transition to qualified majority decision-making in the EU Council where unanimity is still required – i.e. in within the common foreign policy, taxes and in other areas. The EU’s defense policy should also be significantly strengthened, as well as instruments for the protection of the rule of law.
Scholz’s speech aroused quite a lot of interest in our environment. In particular, reflections on institutional reforms, including the abandonment of the remnants of unanimous decision-making, received many dissenting and agreeing reactions.
However, anyone who follows – even very cursorily – events in EU politics, knows well that Bundeskanzler he didn’t come up with anything groundbreaking. He served us a routine speech fully in the spirit of EU mainstream thinking. A song about a more united Union, which is a world power and champion, about “European sovereignty”, solidarity, saving the climate or the rule of law, is more played than Tučný’s “Wonderful Woman” on Country Radio.
From the flood of speeches, articles, resolutions, manifestos, etc., let’s remember Juncker’s message “Catch the wind in your sails” from September 2017 and “The time of European sovereignty” from September 2018, Macron’s speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017, the trio of European Parliament resolutions on institutional reforms from 16 February 2017, Merkel’s speech at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung seminar in Berlin in November 2018, the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe from May 2022 or subsequent proposals of the European Parliament to amend the treaties of June 2022. Of the older texts, it is worth recalling the manifestos Young Europeans… Unite! by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Felix Marquardt (September 2013) a Europe is the solution, not the problem from the Council for the Future of Europe platform (September 2011).
A look at the recent past is very useful. We can observe that however the external circumstances develop, problems come and go, the Union centralists are like bottlers with a repertoire limited to one number. A tight song on the subject ever closer union it’s always redeployed whether someone asked for it or not. We already know it like our shoes – actually much better, because we change shoes every now and then.
Centralization is presented as a one-size-fits-all solution to all the real or perceived difficulties facing the EU and its member states. One time it is the debt crisis, the second time the migration crisis, another time the coronavirus, most recently the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. Let’s not expect a critical reflection on the extent to which centralization itself created or contributed to some of these problems.
In the shadow of all the crises of recent years and reading the energy bills, we should finally see the fallacy of this approach and understand that integration has spilled over and started to create more problems than benefits. We must return from the ideology of programmatic centralization and EU nationalism back to the key demand of Margaret Thatcher and Václav Klaus, that European integration is not an end in itself, but a mere tool; that it only makes sense where it benefits its members.
The Scholz’s proposals – as much as his turning of the bottle crank is worthy of this label – they go in exactly the opposite direction, and the problems would only deepen. Therefore, they must be rejected.