POLITICS IN CZECH REPUBLIC, POLAND, SLOVAKIA AND HUNGARY PART 1 OF 5

PREFACE

This is the first part of a five part post dealing with Czech republic: sections on Poland, Slovakia and very briefly on Hungary (see next paragraph) follow and then a short round-up and some personal notes. Also, let me just point out that this post is very much related to Leto’s August issue on Hungary’s Parliament which I did not see until well into my post. I will deal with Hungary in a few lines as Leto has done a far more competent job than I, but I suggest you read the all the posts together. In many ways my posts could have been a massive comment to Leto’s offering rather than a new post.

Czech Republic

Let’s look at other nations in Central Europe – Mittel-Europa if you will – in alphabetical order. Often forgotten is the velvet divorce of 1993 when Czechoslovakia split, totally amicably into 2 sovereign nations. This has had the following legacy. First two sovereign nations that are smaller and therefore more inclined to underline their sovereignty, over and above the natural tendency of those other nations gnawed out of existence by the Hapsburg, Russian (or Soviet) and Prusso-Germanic empires to reassert their identity, national sovereignty and communal validity. The last time they did this was the Dubcek, Svoboda inspired ‘spring’of 1968 when the nations were still the joined Czechoslovakia. Czechs and Slovaks are working more and more together. The languages are similar.

I have a daughter and family in Bratislava and one grandson at Prague uni.. He tells me in some conversations the language difference is like British English to USA English, in other topics more like Portuguese to Italian and very occasionally like French to Rumanian. These two nations compete in a good healthy fashion, yet cooperate and the cooperation is facilitated by the Visegrad alliance. The annual chair changes each July and is currently Poland.  Visegrad provides more information on the cooperation, notably nuclear energy, fiscal reserves, defence and security cohesion, research and development sharing through the IVF.  This regional cooperation works very well and the links to other regions – Nordic (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) and Benelux (Belgium, Nederland, Luxembourg) is reaping more benefit than individual interactions with Brussels, according to many sources in the V4 and all without the sovereignty drain or regulation encumbrance. There are also many who view the Czech and Slovak economies (except the somewhat trailing eastern Slovak Kosice and Presov region) as being a more advanced market economy with a competitive manufacturing and engineering services base than either Poland or Hungary. These views have rapidly modified and improved over the years as most ‘think-tanks’ of the 1990-2005 period reckoned on at least a twenty year hiatus to complete moves to a market economy and genuine popular democracy. It has been shown to be otherwise. In the current political aura of friction and for historic reasons mentioned above Czech republic has asked the democracy question and demanded discussion on the deficit and accountability of the EU regularly since 2009. President Klaus who asked the questions first now runs the Klaus Institute which has become a focal point for groups who believe the EU to be dysfunctional and/or anti-democratic –  but this could never be considered a very extreme or angry group, although Verhofstadt calls them fascists.

Here is Vaclav Klaus asking reasonable questions of EU Parliament:

Listen to the derision from the bigots in the Parliament and here is his only defence from the Parliament floor:

How is the Czech Republic governed?  Well, as in most of Europe and even in the UK now since 2010 a coalition, often but not always multi-party, is the norm. This often means quite weak government perpetually hinging policy on party compromise. The Czech system has a Senate of popularly elected 81 seats, very much modelled on the US with 6 year terms and 1/3 for re-election every 2 years. The senate is not popular, election turnout is almost derisory and there is talk of doing away with it, or at least reducing it to 3 members for each of 14 provinces – 42 members. It is after all very largely an amendment chamber and only has the right to initiate legislation that is directly related to the constitution. The deputies chamber consists of 200 seats, and a term of 4 years. Since the 2013 scandals power is now a coalition between the CSSD – a social democrat party with 50 seats, a completely new and fairly populist party, but centrist called ANO11 with 47 seats and a nationalist party – KDU-SL with 14 seats, thus a small majority of 111. CSSD leader, a fairly anodyne pro-EU guy called Sobotka, is the PM but his party is outnumbered in the coalition and the Czech president Zeman who has dissolution powers is moving more and more into the ANO11 posture. So CSSD under some populist pressure. Czech issues and accords with the EU Accords a) There is one abiding EU accord and that is agreement, especially from Sobotka on the formation of an EU army. He sees on conflict with NATO and is probably supporting the EU army, without UK not a very strong force, as an encouragement to NATO to increase anti-Russia vigilance and security. No EU army can be effective for a decade.

Issues:

  •  The lack of democracy, accountability and the usual checks and balances between the legislative, executive and judiciary. Appointment and anointment must stop. Czech republic suggested a Senate for the EU with popularly elected equal representation by member with the mandate of safeguarding states’ rights and providing legislative oversight. The model was the US Senate which in turn had been adopted by Czech republic. ‘Not needed’, Senate or any other mechanism was the EU’s obdurate dogmatic reply.
  • Perpetual hassling to join the Euro. The EU wants Czech republic to sacrifice the Koruna, about 28 to the euro. The EU also tried to manoeuvre V3 (Slovakia is in the eurozone) into the 5 year rule. This was a new rule of 2010 that said members must move to the Euro unless treaty-exempted within 5 years of joining. The case went to ECJ and V3 won. Next the lever being used was how well neighbour Slovakia had done but Slovakia is now in gentle, but accelerating retraction, so that argument has fallen away. The latest much more subtle and nasty lever is reducing EU funding. There are several interconnected aspects to this reduction. First all the tendering and contract procedures have been prolonged, especially on hanging projects where delays render structures and implementations from previous tasks useless and only their redoing at local cost permits the project to continue. Second the EU will now only subsidize jointly funded projects. Every euro must be met with at least one Koruna, sometimes the ratio is 1 Euro to 2 Koruna and of course the EU sets the exchange rate. Some of these necessary projects where delay costs massively are in a 1:3 euro to Koruna ratio and the Koruna is 40, not 28 to the euro. This is nothing more than gouging.  More on the funding lever. To give an idea of the projects the EU originally agreed to, but now sabotage for their own imperial will. I suppose in Prague they speak of EU defenestration. The situation would be far worse if direct funding from the Norway and Switzerland special EU deal was not there. Czech use these funds to avert infra-structure disaster –  One major incident is the Prague ring road completion of which leaving unprotected, no fund to pour concrete over metal enfilades before winter. The other is the deliberate delay on the main import/export goods route from Prague to Breslau – Wroclaw in Poland.
  • Migration quotas. Now here there is a clear resistance to the imposition of a quota as a result of a non-existent EU policy of discouragement, border control, registration and standard asylum processes. Czech republic has very strongly critical views of EU migration policy failure. Criticism is responded to with more and more aggression from Brussels.

Few facts on Czech republic: Population of 11 million people, 88% declare no religion: 10% Catholicism. High income economy – 67% of EU average. Energy exporter and a high quality techno-manufacturing economy with a very strong private sector.

Plans for the future

Today Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has outlined a ten point action plan  statement of intent for the future… “provided we get a mandate from the Hungarian voters to do these”  Luckily they’ve got a fair chance for that. 🙂

The business conference where PM Orbán spoke

  1. Further increasing the domestic proportion of  Hungary’s public debt financing.
  2. Re-industrialization of Hungary to be continued. A bigger percentage of Hungary’s GDP must come from manufacturing than in the case of  the Czech Republic or even Germany.
  3. Further reorientation in Hungary’s foreign relations. He mentioned Turkey and India as examples which countries Hungary should be more focused on.
  4. Changing the ownership distribution in Hungary’s banking sector so that at least 50% of the banking section should be Hungarian-owned.
  5. 80 percents of agricultural land shall be owned by small and middle-sized farmers.
  6. Creating new innovation centres, with university partnerships.
  7. Further decreasing tax on labour and  shifting taxation on consumption even more.
  8. Economic policies must address Hungary’s demographic crisis and the whole economy must be viewed from this angle.
  9. New energy policy: non-profit energy distribution services. Both household energy bills and industrial energy bills shall be the cheapest in Europe and energy prices should be competitive with the ones in the USA.
  10. Full employment (when there is no cyclical or deficient-demand unemployment)

Ambitious goals indeed… But this guy means it and he’s been delivering on his promises.

Any comments?

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The restoration of Central Europe

.. the artificial division between ‘old’ and ‘new’ members of the European Union, or ‘east’ and ‘west’ Europe … are now out of date as never before. The Visegrád countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) are no longer nervous newcomers, but self-assured old hands. Their record on economic growth and social peace are enviable. They have also shown resilience in the face of adversity – both in coping with the recent financial crisis, and in dealing with the strains and stresses that followed the collapse of communism. Their politics, for the most part, are boringly stable. Their political co-operation … is increasingly impressive and effective.

wrote   Edward Lucas, the editor of the international section of The Economist in “European Voice”.

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