So it turns out, my vote was not needed. The Czech Eu referendum is over – 55% turnout, 77,33% said ‘yes’. Done. Welcome in the EU, guys!
Nonetheless, judging from the opinions those (not too many) Czech people held whom I talked to in Praque, a lot of the 3,48 million votes in favour of EU membership seem to have been cast not out of any European enthusiasm but due to the realisation that a small country like the Czech Republic is bound to be severely affected by whatever the EU decides – with or without any influence on the inside. Quite apart from the additional legal and political problems resulting from Czech and German politicians’ handling of the Benes-factor in the run up to the accession treaty, they expressed a lot of fear regarding the possible surrender of velvet-revolution-acquired democracy to some intransparent bureaucratic complex in Brussels.
I found this rather surprising given that most of those who shared this opinion with me are very unlikely to remember their life before the velvet revolution in colour – if they remember the revolution itself, I suppose must be a consequence of tv coverage interruppting regular kids afternoon progamming…
Thus, it is difficult for me to judge if they are really afraid of subjecting themselves to an unaccountable technocracy or if the ‘giving up what we fought for’ argument is not in fact a politically correct way of expressing nationstate-centric reservations against the European project. Clearly, the velvet revolution as well as the peaceful separation from Slovakia in 1994 has allowed young Czechs to recently develop a stronger national identity than was conceivable in the formrt pseudo-internationalist totalitarian regime. When my Prague Castle architectural tour guide, a young female history of arts student, talked about the “Czech” national revival at the end of the 19th century on Sunday morning before briefly mentioning the referendum, the subtext was obvious to everyone present – she was actually alluding to the national revival at the end of the 20th century – and the fear of losing her national and cultural identity, of being assimilated.
She voted in favour, she said – because she is hoping for EU cash for her art projects and because of – resistance-is-futile – assumed inevitability.
She, like most others I talked to this weekend, may be right about the project’s inevitability. But can this be enough for those who believe in the European cause? Hardly. They will have to continue to fight for the new members’ heart. And we all know that John Lennon, a graffiti of whom became a revolutionary rallying point in Prague, was absolutely right about this – “money can’t buy you love”.
So let’s hope that paid-for cohabitation is only the beginning. Again – welcome in the EU, guys!