Monday, February 10, 2014

No, this is not a new Prague Spring

I am not a great one for banning political terminology even when it has lost its original meaning. Although I always point out that by liberal I mean the European or British or original meaning of the word I do not demand that Americans change their word.

However, I would dearly like to see the end of people using the word "Spring" whenever there is the slightest chance in political thinking and the suffix "-gate" whenever there is even the smallest political scandal. Watergate was the name of the building that was broken into. That's it. There was nothing there about gates or not as far as the politics was concerned. Neither was it the greatest scandal in American political history but that is another issue.

On to the word "Spring". We all know where it comes from: the 1968 attempt in Czechoslovakia to reform the Communist system, to give it a "human face" and to try to combine it with some form of freedom and democracy. It failed when the Soviet tanks rolled in but eventually contributed to the collapse of the whole system and the disintegration of the Soviet empire.

We also know that the so-called "Arab Spring" was nothing like the "Prague Spring" for many reasons, not least the almost total absence of any ideas to do with democracy and freedom. If they were there at the beginning, they disappeared very swiftly and not just because the tanks rolled in.

Now we have the new Czech Foreign Minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, bleating about a new "Prague Spring". The title intrigued me. Is he proposing an EU with a "human face"? Some democratic modification to the system? How far will that go, there being no tanks to roll anywhere?

Alas, no. Mr Zaoralek is tentatively suggesting that the aim of the new "Prague Spring" is "to project a more positive attitude towards the European Union, overturning years of skepticism that has at times pushed his country to Europe's margins".

I am not sure what exactly anyone means by the country being pushed to Europe's margins. It cannot help being where it is geographically speaking and it is not exactly on the margins culturally speaking. Politically? That's anybody's guess. Certainly, Mr Zaoralek seems a little vague on the subject as he appears to think that there is some choice in whether his country can "engage" with Europe, by which, I assume, he means the European Union. Has he not read those treaties? Has he not understood what acquis communautaire means? No, I suppose not. He is a politician, after all.
Attending his first EU foreign ministers' meeting since being appointed on January 29, Lubomir Zaoralek said the new center-left government was determined to re-engage with Europe and show its commitment to joining the euro, even if it remains too early to set a date.

"Our ambition is to create a new Czech policy which will not be nebulous or dubious, but will be understandable, predictable and maybe credible," he told Reuters in his first interview with the foreign media since taking office.

Asked whether that represented a new "Prague Spring" - the period of political liberalization and openness to the rest of Europe the former Czechoslovakia experienced in the late 1960s - he agreed, although with conditions.

"Maybe the prerequisite is to have a clear stance towards the euro - that we are ready to do everything that has to be done during this period to be ready to enter the euro zone."

Quizzed about the timing of any entry, Zaoralek was cautious, saying it depended on meeting the EU's criteria on deficit and debt, joining the exchange rate mechanism that binds currencies to the euro, and shifting Czech public opinion.
He certainly knows how to use weighty words without saying anything but there is no real explanation how jumping on to that floundering ship called the euro resembles Alexander Dubček's attempts at reform.

1 comment:

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