February 22, 2014

Swiss Referendum About Immigration: As Seen from Prague

The Czech people fully respect the use of one of the most important aspects of the Swiss constitutional system, of people´s referendum and don´t feel they have any right to comment on its results – regardless the topic. It would be unproductive to a priori restrict the range of questions which could be raised in a referendum. We should not accept the ruinous effects of the currently so fashionable wave of political correctness.
I consider the question raised in the last Swiss referendum as correct politically (which doesn´t imply that it must be politically correct). The question was fair. The massive movements of people across the borders of sovereign countries, made possible in the last decades by the elimination of borders, by the increasing acceptance of the ideology of multiculturalism and by the wide-spread over-generous state paternalism, no doubt undermine the coherence of countries and make life there much less pleasant and comfortable than in the past. This is – I suppose – the feeling of many Swiss citizens.

Switzerland, a rich, traditionally democratic and relatively open society, has in the last decades become the destination of many non-political immigrants, much more than the Czech Republic. In our society and economy – partly due to communism – the number of immigrants, of people born abroad, is much lower and the issue of immigration has not yet become the topic of the day. It may, however, change very rapidly. (It is also necessary to mention that my own sister emigrated from Czechoslovakia in August 1968, in the moment of the Warsaw Pact armies invasion into Czechoslovakia, into your country and lives – together with her family – close to Baden ever since.)

The results of the Swiss referendum are quite rational and expected, for me the only surprise is the small margin in favour of the “YES” answer. The size of the problem of massive immigration in Europe (and in Switzerland especially) seems to me bigger than the small margin between “YES” and “NO” votes. I do not see the result of the referendum as saying NO to immigration but as saying SLOW DOWN the immigration into my country, please. This message should not be misinterpreted. I strongly believe that any country has a right to say something like that. The irresponsible multiculturalists, the globalists, the Europeists see it, of course, differently. They are wrong. We should not subscribe to the new illiberal, collectivistic “isms”, which aim at suppressing our freedom.

It is no surprise that the results of the Swiss referendum created a consternation and panic in the commanding heights in Brussels. The EU is already a post-democratic and post-political area. After being in the EU for ten years, the Czechs feel it very strongly. The EU politicians and bureaucrats are basically against the idea of people´s referendum because they are not interested in the views of the people. They are afraid of them. The EU rulers have a repeated experience that the results of various referenda, carried out in the past years in individual EU member-countries, very often brought for them unacceptable, in their interpretation anti-European, in any case politically incorrect, which means wrong, results. They want to motivate all of us to think “continentally” which requires suppressing the nation states, diminishing the role of national borders, promoting the liquidation of naturally existing coherence of nations and encouraging the massive and unrestricted migration. They must be frustrated by the results of the referendum.

The whole debate is in its substance about freedom. One would expect that the traditional advocates of freedom and liberty, the European liberals (sometimes it is necessary to say classical liberals to distinguish them from American, Obama-like liberals), understand and correctly interpret this issue and see clearly where to stand, what stance to take. I see, however, that some European classical liberals are confused in this respect. They consider all kinds of freedoms positive, therefore, even the unrestricted freedom to migrate is positive according to them.

As someone who spent almost 50 years of his life in communist Czechoslovakia and was blocked from moving to the West then, I very strictly differentiate between the terms “to migrate”, “to emigrate” and “to immigrate”. Many Czechs were frustrated by not being allowed to freely emigrate (I didn´t intend to do it, but I also felt the frustration), but I would have never considered the possibility of immigrating into any specific country as one of my “rights”. I am afraid this is not fully understood by some classical liberals in Europe. They support – for me quite irrationally – the weakening of European states which is in its full consequences a very anti-liberal measure. Shifting the competences from individual countries to the EU level isn´t a desirable weakening of the institution of a state but the undesirable strengthening of one superstate, of the EU, which is much less democratic than any individual European state. It does not increase the freedom in Europe, it impairs it. It is a pity that even some of the believers in Mises and Hayek do not see this.

To conclude, I congratulate the Swiss people on making such a decision. I can assure them that their decision was much more welcomed by ordinary people in Europe and in the Czech Republic than by politicians and journalists so prominent in the media.

Václav Klaus, Published in WeltWoche, 20th February, 2014.


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