By Václav Klaus
I consider the Jagellonian period in our relations historically very important and for our present times also very inspiring. In one moment of history, six hundred years ago, the Poles, the Czechs and the Hungarians (and together with them the Slovaks) cooperated under the Jagellonian rule to defend their common interests against possible threats, coming both from the West and from the South. Though it did not last long, the Jagellonian period gave us an example which we continue to develop – to a certain extent and in a new historic setting – now under the “V 4” label.
This is not my first award from a Polish university. Five years ago, I got an honorary doctorate degree from the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw. When receiving it, I stressed that I take it as a personal award which reflects my own political and academic activities, but I added that I take it also as an extraordinary and friendly gesture towards my country, the Czech Republic, for which Poland is not only a neighbour with similar historical experiences but also a country with which we have many things in common. I take your prize in the same spirit. The positive development of the Czech-Polish and Polish-Czech relations has always belonged to my political and personal priorities. Let me express once again my gratitude to the Senat of the Jagiellonian College in Toruń and to you, Mdm. Rector, for having recognized this fact.
I visited Poland many times both in the communist era and in the later years. I have always found your country to be the closest one to the Czech Republic. I am proud to have had the opportunity to give speeches and lectures here and to have four of my books translated into Polish and published in your country. The titles of these books indicate my lifelong topics and to a certain extent even my positions on them:
– Błękitna planeta w zielonych okowach (which covers my already long-lasting fight with the irresponsible global warming alarmism);
– Czym jest Europeizm? (which was my short critical summary of the ideology of europeism);
– Gdzie zaczyna się jutro (containing my discussion of communism and of the subsequent transformation era);
– My, Europa i świat (my interpretation of the most important international events I experienced as a politician in the post-communist era).
The Czech Republic and Poland are neighbours which inevitably results both in a peaceful coexistence in some moments of history and times of disputes and conflicts in others. It was interesting for me to find out – while preparing my trip – that a Czech protestant scholar and humanist Pavel Stránský ze Záp spent two decades as a professor at your Evangelic Gymnasium almost four centuries ago (being forced to leave Bohemia after the victory of Catholic armies organized by the Habsburg Empire in the battle of White Mountain on the outskirts of Prague at the beginning of the 17th century).
Being both situated in Central Europe, we also used to have the same, not always friendly neighbours – Germany on the one side, and Russia on the other. There is, nevertheless, a difference. The Czech Republic is geographically slightly better located which means that our clashes with Russia have not been so frequent and so tragic as yours. For that reason, it is fair to say here today that we may see a current Russian danger less dramatically than you.
By suggesting a title of my today´s speech, you helped me to think thoroughly about a very important topic: Is it possible for Central and Eastern European states to preserve their identity in the European Union? I see this as the issue, the topic, the question of our times. And as the issue of my life.
The fall of communism – I am convinced that you in Poland have the right to call it a victory over communism – brought both of us the hope and optimism we had been dreaming of for so long. Looking back at the last quarter of the century, we dare say that we both have succeeded in our endeavours. Our countries are very different now than thirty years ago. We are both convinced that the Polish and Czech transformations were the most radical and profound in the Central and Eastern Europe, not to speak about the developments in the post-Soviet Union territory. These early achievements provided us with a very good starting position.
As I said, the early years of the post-communist era were successful but I am afraid that we went through something like a U-curve development, probably more in the Czech Republic than in Poland. The visible and undoubtedly positive changes at the beginning were followed by a slow return to a more socialist, more centralistic, more etatist, less free and less democratic society than we had wished and planned.
It was partly caused by ourselves – by our insufficient belief and faith in freedom, free markets and historically proven values, customs and behavioural patterns – and partly by our almost innocent, inattentive and – as we can see now – unforgivably careless entering the post-democratic, transnational and supranational, centralistically organized European Union, violating parliamentary democracy, guaranteeing neither free markets nor old cultural and civilizational European traditions.
Both our countries wanted to participate actively in the European processes and developments. We didn´t, however, need the EU membership as an international safeguard for our getting rid of communism. We didn´t need help from the West in this respect. In the resolute and unhesitating rejection of the old communism, we were strong enough – perhaps more than most of other post-communist countries. We were genuinely happy when regaining our freedom and our sovereignty. We wanted to become standard European countries in the old sense. After four decades of being locked in the semiautarchic Soviet Empire, we wanted to be a part of a friendly cooperation with other European countries to our mutual benefit.
To connect these ambitions of ours with the participation in the European integration process was possible and meaningful only at the beginning, in 1989, in the pre-Maastricht era. It becomes less meaningful now, in the post-Maastricht and especially post-Lisbon era. The European integration process has been transformed by these two treaties into a European unification process. Due to it, the sovereignty of the individual EU member states practically vanished.
The currently prevailing EU ideology (I used to call it Europeism) undermines the traditional, historically proven, main building blocks of the European society:
– the nation state – by favouring regions to states and by attacking a nation state as an awful and abominable basis for nationalism (and, therefore, for wars);
– the family – by promoting genderism and feminism, by proposing all kinds of registered partnerships and same-sex marriages, by questioning the natural sexual orientation of men and women, etc.;
– the man – by trying to create a new European man, homo bruxellarum, by artificially mixing citizens of European countries and – especially in the recent era – by promoting and organizing the mass migration of individuals without European roots into Europe.
The non-explicitly formulated ambition of current European elites is to destroy all naturally risen collective entities and such concepts as nation, religion, civilization and culture and to create a fragmented society of atomized individuals who would blindly follow their instructions, directives and required models of behaviour. I was pleased to find that the same point was raised by President Trump in his recent Warsaw speech when he said that “our freedom, our civilization and our survival depend upon the bonds of history, culture and memory”.
All what we can see in Europe now is done under the umbrella of political correctness, multiculturalism and human-rightism. These “isms” (or doctrines) have become the principle ways and methods aiming to block a serious discussion about fundamental issues, aiming to eliminate free speech, indoctrinate new generations, and silence the opposition. Some of us experienced such an arrangement in the communist era. To make such a comparison is not a provocative overstatement. The contemporary degree of manipulation and indoctrination reminds those of us who are alert and live with open eyes the era of the late communism.
It is our task to stop it. It is a task for all of us. It is, of course, a special task for schools and universities. The universities are – or at least should be – the citadels of a free discourse, of a free exchange of views, of a sophisticated argumentation. They should fight prejudices, apriorisms, politically motivated half-truths or non-truths. I wish your university much success in this effort.
This is also a special task for all European democrats, for this almost to extinction condemned species. Especially we in Poland and the Czech Republic, with our experience with communism, should be on guard. We have, in this respect, a special responsibility. We should become the custodians of old European values, traditions and customs. I am convinced that we have a certain comparative advantage which doesn´t exist in the West. I don´t take it as an overstatement or a mere hyperbole when I say that we have to help return the West to the West.
Coming back to the question you raised, I am obliged to say the following: it is possible for Central and Eastern European countries to preserve their identity but it requires a fundamental shift in Europe, something we used to call a Velvet Revolution in my country. The increasing frequency of acts of violence and terrorism in Western Europe, connected with mass migration, suggests that it may not to be so velvet.
I started my today´s speech by mentioning the Jagellonian tradition. At that time, our predecessors stood side by side to protect Europe and its civilization against violent Islamic Ottoman invasion. This experience and traditions motivate us to reject the dangerous and totally irresponsible policies of the current European elites, giving way to new Islamic ambitions on our continent. I am glad to have the opportunity to stress this on the soil of the Jagellonian College in Toruń.