Therese Kaufmann: Martin Simecka, you once said that the biggest political moment for Slovakia was not 1989 but 1998, referring to a moment in Slovakian political history when the nationalist authoritarian government of Vladimir Meciar fell. You have also said that this political change was the result of a combined effort of many different groups in Slovak society: intellectuals, NGOs, media, politicians and diplomats. What is necessary for political transformation? Can Europe learn something from the Slovakian experience?
Martin Simecka: Sometimes I feel like an expert not on integration but on disintegration. I was part of the movement that brought about the disintegration of the communist empire in 1989; then I was a very sad witness to the disintegration of Czechoslovakia in 1992; and then again of a much happier event, the disintegration of Meciar's authoritarian regime in 1998. What I have learned from all this is that it's all about ideas. The communist system collapsed because it no longer had an idea of its own future. Czechoslovakia dissolved because it didn't believe in its own future. Meciar fell because society believed in ideas that were stronger and more powerful than that of his regime. In 1998 it was not only about getting rid of Meciar, it was also about becoming a part of the European Union. There was a vision for the country.
The current problem with the EU has to do with ideas. The idea of European integration has been driven by the past; by the horrors of WWII, by the Holocaust, by a long history of conflict. Today, the idea of the EU is instead driven by the future – but in a bad sense. If previously it was fear of repeating the past that pushed European integration forward and furthered peace and prosperity, today European policies are driven by fear of the future. We are afraid of increasing migration, of the consequences of the financial crisis. The future is not something that we believe in; we are afraid of it.