Before evert election, parties try to distinguish themselves from each other, to mobilize their “base” voters, and also to divert attention from what is going on surrounding the vote. These days, the most important topic for upsetting and confusing people is the European Union, and the pressure point is the question of “getting out or staying,” writes political scientist Petr Robejšek.
When experts talk about national interests, it is usually about peace, the inviolability of the territory, economic development, allies, and enemies. National interests express that every nation is always somewhere between prosperity and extinction. Whether a country is closer to development or disintegration, you can tell by the hundreds of thousands and millions of answers to the simple question: “How are you?” National interests are a summary of the hopes and fears of various generations, today.
When governments understand what is happening in their society, the nation-state can be the best-functioning organizational unit in the chaos of today’s world. It helps citizens understand the world and inspires the government to act effectively in it.
Does the EU pay off?
The alliance of states can be a useful tool for pursuing national interests when its members gain more than if they went their own way. It is with this hope that Czechia also joined the EU.
However, the whole history of European integration is a description of exaggerated ideas about what politics can do. An example of this approach is the idea – and, in particular, the way – the common European currency is introduced and saved. In the past, efforts to achieve a common security or energy policy for our continent have also been unsuccessful. We are still suffering and will be under the consequences of a faulty migration policy for a long time, and right now we are experiencing disillusion with a pan-European environmental policy.
For the last two decades, the EU has been trying to solve the problems it has caused itself with its titanic ambition. Consequently, it more and more restricts the independence of its members, all while failing to provide them with an increased efficiency in achieving their national interests.
In contrast, columnists and progressive scientists are constantly chattering that “more Europe is needed” and that “big problems can only be solved by large units.” However, the EU is facing a crisis of its meaning and future. It is exacerbated by the end of globalization, the impending collapse of the world financial industry, the culmination of the euro crisis, and the struggle for human dignity and freedom.
When Europeans find themselves in situations similar to medieval experiences of deadly threats, each nation must defend itself and not wait for the hectically stagnant headquarters to tell it what, when, and how to do anything.
In terms of national interests, the EU simply does not pay off. No wonder Brexit has taken place – and with it, the EU has lost confidence that “more and more Europe” rings true and that history is on its side. The pendulum of historical development is moving in the opposite direction of what the European Commission would like.
We cannot leave the EU, but we must not allow it to involve us more and more in its problems
So, there are those of us who want to get out, right? Let us remember a little about 2004. Our accession to the EU was not the best solution, but it was inevitable given national interests.
The Czech public gradually freed itself from the belief in the supernatural ability of the European spirit. But when I think about our national interests even now, I say that it is better to remain a member.
Just like joining once, staying in the EU today is not the ideal solution. But it is better to stay in the name of our national interests. It was impossible not to enter and it is not possible to exit. The reason is the same. We didn’t have enough strength to stay out, and we don’t have enough strength to leave the club. As we are geopolitically attached to Europe, it is not advantageous for us to leave the EU.
However, this does not mean that it is advantageous to deepen our membership. Given the current state of the EU, the continuation of European integration is not in the Czech national interest. The political quadrature of the circle is therefore as follows: We cannot leave the EU, but we must not allow it to involve us more and more in its self-created problems.
A small country always has limited possibilities for independent decision-making. The main concern of its leaders should therefore be to preserve as much room for maneuver as possible. Everything else is secondary. The fate of the EU is likely to come true in a chaotic form of disintegration. Until this happens, it is in the interest of our country and the duty of the government to limit the power of Brussels.
The European Union was supposed to be an association of equal countries which cultivate trade with each other, have open borders with each other, and jointly carry out several projects of transnational significance. This goal is not currently achievable.
National interest is not an insulting term
It is therefore time to understand that the national interest is not an insulting term, but rather a tool of knowledge, a guide to a solution, and a source of motivation. Yes, the nation-state operates “only” within its borders and somewhere better and worse elsewhere, but always faster and mostly more effectively than any transnational grouping. But national interests have never ceased to be important.
Their importance was only overlooked by elites who thought they could rule the world. Today, however, globalists have worked hard to realize that they cannot control their own countries other than by dictatorial methods.
National interests also mean that each generation has the privilege and responsibility to co-shape the fate of the nation. It has never been more true than in recent months.
National governments should take over now. However, they are stretched out between their own interests and the influence of strong economic actors. However, governments inadvertently stumble upon the lives of normal people and have neither the will nor the space to care for their well-being and security.
The European Union is an important, but very secondary issue today. That is why it is not true that Europeans are sitting in the same boat. We are more accurately in the same storm. And when governments stumble headlong into it, nations have to deal with it themselves.
Title image: A man holding a Czech and EU flag attends a protest in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Hundreds of people have been protesting in the Czech capital what they say is a chaotic response of the government to the pandemic of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)