By Tomáš Kafka, Ambassador of the Czech Republic in the Federal Republic of Germany
While speaking about Ukraine
We speak to ourselves,
If freedom champions sell their dreams
They subscribe to nightmares.
Freedom champions must not lose
While dictators dictate
If we prevent freedom abuse
The freedom would be great.
The music legend, Bob Dylan, mused once very poetically about the true substance of history and came to the famous conclusion that “times are changing”. The same result we may have heard listening to the in the meantime also legendary speech by the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, as he was challenged and forced to deliver appropriate response to the brutal war President Putin waged on Ukraine. Times are changing, Zeitenwenden happen! And the EU Presidency has, of course, to follow suit.
No wonder, that against a backdrop of the changing times the first draft of the Czech EU Presidency´s program – aiming primarily at healing the Covid-struck European medical system and heavily affected national budgets respectively at safeguarding the smooth launch of the Green Deal – ended up scrapped. Of course, not fully scrapped, but heavily adjusted. In times, where Russian artilleries devastate vast patches of Ukrainian territory and President Putin plots violent submission of the Ukrainian statehood to the Russian rule of evil it is simply impossible to talk just about “the weather”, regardless how important our struggle for healthy environment is. The fear of totalitarian regimes in general and Russia in particular came back to Europe on February 24, 2022 at latest. The EU had simply to fight back and overcome its own arising horror.
The Czech EU Presidency heeded the sea-change of times from its very beginning. The first, most prominent priority of the new set of five main programmatic points highlights the necessity of adequate support to the Ukraine in three areas, the military, the economic and humanitarian one. It would be – of course – out of proportion to claim, that the support to the Ukraine is everything, but it is true, that without this support everything else may be nothing or close to nothing. If the EU – or properly said the West and its partners – don´t step up to the plate and protect decisively allied democracies against imperialistic aggressions of autocracies, it will not only heavily undermine chances of the first to survive the attacks of the latter, it will the same way ruin the self-confidence and reputation of the West as such. Support to the Ukraine is therefore also support to the West and its own values and interests.
The choice of the remaining four programmatic points reflected the above-mentioned logic. These points cover strengthening economic self-sufficiency, energy security, European defense capabilities and cybersecurity and democratic resilience. Next to these political priorities, there is, of course, also second part of the national program containing the priority sectoral agendas. Still in order not to get lost in the vast number of the legislative and non-legislative proposals that the Czech Republic will focus on under the relevant Council formations, it is important to have and accept the core message, the presidency is coming with. This message, which as the proverbial red thread pervades all areas and politics, which the EU as common political organism consists of, says: the whole EU and its representatives have to do whatever it takes in order to maintain the unity in times of the common threat.
As the Russian war unfolds, this threat is fitting more and more the once so popular thesis of the Huntington´s Clash of Civilizations. It is still too early to say whether our conflict with Russia may reach up to this predicament. I am afraid, however, that another diagnosis, which tried to find out what may be the real goal of President Putin, already came true. It is more than one decade ago as the American historian, Timothy Snyder, stated that Vladimir Putin obviously realized, that Russia wouldn´t ever be like the West and would therefore do his best to achieve the opposite, i.e. that the West would one day be like Russia. Current Russian war on Ukraine is to be seen as an ultimate contribution to reaching this horrible goal.
Still, the dice isn´t cast. What President Putin wants, is one thing. Something completely different is, what the West, the EU and their partners – in close alliance with the Ukraine – will allow. The precondition for us to save our value-based lifestyle and get Putin´s Russia out of the Ukraine is keeping our unity as close as possible and be bold and determined while standing our ground. Let us hope that we will manage. Let us hope, that while embracing unusual but effective measures both, the Czech EU Presidency and Chancellor Scholz, will be at the end of the day as successful and inspiring – at least within the margins given to their genre – as Bob Dylan has remained in the category of legendary songs.
For further information
Czech Presidency of the European Council: https://czech-presidency.consilium.europa.eu/en/
Cover picture of Ambassador Tomáš Kafka – Image courtesy of the Czech Embassy in Germany – Lydie Holinková