Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Oh, to wield power. The Czech Republic is growing in stature and self-assurance by the day, intoxicated with its new-found status as a player on the international currency markets and European political stage. Only a short while ago I voiced my frustrations at the misplaced inferiority complex that pervades culture here, but perhaps soon I will be eating my words and pining for the days when bitter self-mockery was the norm. Are the Czechs suddenly about to start throwing their weight about all over Europe like loudmouthed chav verminillionaires? Can’t see it myself, but who knows, a sudden upturn in fortunes can be pure poison to those not accustomed to such a potent brew – just look at virtually any famous footballer. Thanks to the recession taking hold in the US and elsewhere in Europe, the Czech crown is continuing to rocket in value, now only 15 to the dollar (it only passed the 20 mark around the end of last year, and I remember the days when it was 40) and 30 to the pound. I don’t know anything about economics and so can’t speculate as to why exactly this is the case, but the fact is that the Czechs are now, in both relative and absolute terms, much richer than they used to be – at least until the recession hits us here, and inflation is already starting to bite.

As well as economic power, the Czechs are now politically in the position of holding the future of Europe in their hands. Following the Irish debacle, Europe awaits with baited breath on the Czechs’ decision on whether or not to kill off the Lisbon treaty. Naturally President Václav Klaus, as well as shooting his malignant, punctilious gob off about everything else from the design for the national library to the need for a new strategy in the national football team, has made his position clear on this issue too. No need to worry about an excess of humility and self-deprecation from him at any rate. Nevertheless, although it makes me want to eat my own faeces to have to say this, I may, yet again, be in agreement with this human pile of shit. Not that I’ve read the Lisbon treaty of course, neither do I know anyone who has, and I doubt that more than a fraction of the people actually voting on the issue have. Furthermore I’ve no doubt that a large proportion, if not the great majority of the people voting against the treaty so far have done so for no other reason than that they’re ignorant, nationalistic bigots. But what did you expect? That’s democracy, the tyranny of the majority! Rightly or wrongly, European people don’t want this treaty. And as Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Looking at the way European leaders are trying to push the treaty through regardless of popular opposition and the Irish rejection, it’s hard to disagree with him.

Like the British government, who obviously wouldn’t dare, the Czech government isn’t going to put the issue to a popular vote, but it’ll probably make no difference anyway. Gordon Brown certainly won’t be doing his popularity any favours if he pursues his current line of refusing a referendum whilst publicly backing the treaty, and could be forgiven for privately hoping the Czech parliament fails to ratify the treaty and the whole thing gets swiftly swept under the carpet like the European Constitution before it, only for them to rename it a few years later and this time, finally ensure by whatever means necessary that there is no referendum on the issue anywhere in the world. But what will be the impact on the national self-consciousness of the Czechs?


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