At Last Some Sense: The EU Answers Sudeten Radicals
After all the historical hysteria whipped up in Central Europe by the Czech-German Declaration and its associated fora and funds, it is nice to see a public figure finally talking some sense on the matter. The Spokesperson for the EU Commissioner of Justice and Immigration Affairs Anita Gradin should be applauded for her forthright summary of the "Sudeten question" and its relevance to EU expansion.
In reference to the Beneš decrees, she said that any initiative seeking to reverse them after fifty years would be "unreasonable". She went on to comment that such a move would only open a "Pandora's Box" of problems. She also stated that she knew of no such initiative at her level.
This is perhaps a bit surprising, because just a few days before Franz Neubauer had implied that he had already brought up the matter with the appropriate EU bodies and would continue to do so as the EU expansion talks progressed. It is clear that although Neubauer keeps repeating himself like a broken record of hit songs from 1938, no one is listening to his revanchist foolishness in Brussels.
Still, the Czechs are nervous and continue to express fears of Neubauer, now also unfortunately on the Co-ordinating Committee of the Discussion Forum (koordinaŤnĚ rady diskusnĚho fůra) established by the Czech-German Declaration. These fears continue despite repeated assurances from the German government, both before and after the infamous Declaration, that EU and NATO entry for the Czech Republic would not be tied to irredentists' demands in Germany.
Some Czechs continue to worry that EU entry will automatically lead to some kind of re-Germanification because Sudeten Germans will have an automatic right to buy property, but that is not the case at all. Actually, many member states of the EU have restrictions on other EU nationals buying local property - France, Greece and Italy for example in some locations. This acts as a precedent for the Czech Republic.
This is allowed by the Treaty of Rome (Article 222) and was later confirmed by the Single European Act of 1987 which guarantees the free movement of goods, labour and capital but NOT the owning of property in another member state. There is no reason to expect that the Czech Republic will not also be able maintain its discriminatory property ownership laws once inside the EU.
Despite her confession of ignorance, it is hard to say whether Gradin was referring indirectly to Neubauer's assertion when she rejected irredentist attempts to change Czech laws more than half a century old. Coming just a few days after another Neubauer rant on the subject, it seems likely that she was publicly rebuffing him, but given Neubauer's complete obscurity outside of Bavaria and the Czech Republic, it is also possible she really didn't know what the questioner was referring to. Either way, the EU gave its answer: the Czech Republic will join the EU without concessions to Sudeten extremists.
This is an important statement that should act to reduce some Czech suspicions of the EU and ease the reservations some citizens have regarding EU entry. It should generally allow Czechs to feel that the Czech Republic's entry into the EU will not threaten their sense of identity, and I believe that such statements will encourage many more citizens in the Czech Republic to lend their support to their country's joining the EU. It was an impressive statement from Brussles, and one hopes for more of the same.