Smells like the days before Czechoslovakia’s split

Central European politicians are hiding the consequences their words and deeds may have for the region’s EU future.

Photo: CreativeCommons/Debbie&Harry

It will not be any wonder if western European politicians begin asking their voters if they want to maintain their union with central Europe.

The mood within the European Union is beginning to remind me of the period immediately prior to the break-up of Czechoslovakia. The public debate at that time was totally dominated by mutual accusations, which had so embittered both nations, that the break-up of federation, something rarely discussed publically, eventually turned out to be the only solution that could provide relief.

I am not sure whether politicians of that time incited enmity in both nations in order to achieve the split, or if they were baffled by the developments (which, with the benefit of hindsight, seemed inevitable).

And today I also do not know whether central European politicians (who, in this parallel play the role of the Slovaks in the 90s) speak about the EU with so much hatred because they want our region to break from the EU, or because they do not understand that their words and deeds are leading to such departure.

In the past weeks I cannot recall an important politician (with the exception of Slovak President Andrej Kiska) saying anything positive about the union.

Ministers of the Polish government are reminding Germany of Hitler and his mass murder of Poles; the Hungarian Prime Minister is accusing the West and especially Germany, of “moral failure”; while Czech and Slovak politicians are saying the West has failed, and should be solving the refugee problems alone, without dragging them into it.

And many Central European politicians are fuming with fire and sulfur about the “political correctness” of the hypocritical West, suggesting that they finally speak their open and real truth.

Ok, well then why doesn’t central Europe openly speak their real truth as well? Why don’t they say they do not want to be associated with such a West, and suggest leaving the union?

This is the only conclusion one might logically draw from the rhetoric of central Europe’s politicians.

Isn’t their unwillingness to confess this opinion exactly like the “political correctness” and “concealment of the truth” they are denouncing western Europe for? Are they hiding their real intentions, or are they just stupid?

The situation is very similar to the one preceding the break-up of Czechoslovakia. Slovak politicians were pretty much accusing Prague of everything, but did not want to discuss leaving the federation. In the end, it was the Czechs who drew a logical conclusion.

Ludvík Vaculík, a Czech writer with a big sense for language, was one of the first who immediately understood where the Slovak rhetoric was taking the nation. “Feel free to have your own little house,” he wrote to them. Václav Klaus and others only came later.

Today it is Western journalists (like those at the German weekly, Der Spiegel), who are openly writing about the souring of central Europe’s mutual relations with the EU, seeing central Europe’s departure as a logical consequence. The politicians will internalize these opinions a bit later.

I will not be surprised if Western politicians start asking their voters, if they want central Europe (and eastern Europe) to stay in the Union. Nor will I be surprised if voters’ response is negative.

In fact, I am puzzled that central European nations keep accepting the hypocrisy or stupidity of those politicians, who are leading them away from the EU, without saying anything about it openly.

But maybe the atmosphere of blame and contempt is convenient for those, who were so comfortable with the exciting prelude to the previous separation.

The original article in Slovak was published in Denník N and is available at here.

Martin Milan Šimečka

Martin Milan Šimečka

is an author and journalist, currently editor of Respekt, a Czech political weekly and member of editorial board of Denník N. In 1990 he founded and led an independent publishing house Archa. He later became editor-in-chief of Domino-forum, a Slovak weekly. In 1997 - 2006, he acted as editor-in-chief of SME and in years 2006-2008 he was editor-in-chief of Respekt, from 2009 he changed his positon to editor and contributor.