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25th Sep 2022

Europe wants too much to be like the US, believes Havel

Europe's politicians lack vision and its citizens are suffering from a general European wish to compete with the US rather than focus on "quality of life", says playwright and former president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel.

Mr Havel, who was a leading figure in Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution of 1989, believes that the EU lacks the visionary politicians that marked its beginnings directly after World War II and that it has now reached a "critical junction" in its development.

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  • "We should not force our ideas on anybody, we should only try and lead", says Mr Havel (l) (Photo: www.bundeskanzler.de)

Speaking at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Monday (10 May), the 68-year old outlined his view of European civilisation which he said now had a "double meaning".

On the one side, he argues, the EU is focussing on maximising production and finding new ways of communicating but at the same time "something very unpleasant is happening".

"We do not respect the country, we do not respect the environment", says Mr Havel, instead the EU "would like to be like the United States".

The Czech argues that as Europe originally "gave birth to a new type of civilisation", it should lead the debate about how it should develop.

Europe should be leading the reflection on what it started, says Mr Havel.

Short-term politicians

Mr Havel criticised the current batch of EU leaders for thinking too much in the short-term - to the next election.

Long-term thinking and a restructuring of values - which will "not necessarily be very popular" - is needed.

He said that there is a gap between the political elite who try to push forward the debate on European integration saying that citizens should identify with the EU as they do with "their families, towns, regions and countries".

And politicians should be "somebody other than a bureaucrat ... or an economist". They should be charismatic.

It is up to politicians to transmit Europe "to the citizen who doubts".

Stealing our identity ourselves

Responding to a remark by current Czech President Vaclav Klaus that joining the EU would mean that the Czech Republic would cease to exist as a separate entity, Mr Havel said "the only people who can steal our identity is ourselves".

"We, ourselves, the Czechs are doing that, not the European Union".

Mr Havel refused to typecast the European Union as a federation, or a confederation as this is "misleading".

"It is a new type of co-existence of states".

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