Written by: Philippe Riboton
YOU MAY REMEMBER the Polish government’s big decision right after its country was officially asked to join the next European accession wave – to purchase US fighters over European ones. Imagine for a moment that the Czech Republic and Hungary are already part of the EU, and the Hungarian government chooses General Electric instead of ČKD to supply a major railroad project. Some will say this is the legitimate result of fair competition, that the American proposal was simply better. Others might say that – at the least – it comes up shy of what one would expect in regard to European solidarity (and defense). In a similar move, just a few days before he left office, Václav Havel signed a letter supporting the US posture against Iraq. Of course, good old supporters of the US administration will note that the same letter was also backed up by several other European leaders. What do those two events actually have in common? For one, they certainly illustrate the depth of the American influence in this so-called New Europe. Let’s face it, no matter what their true political beliefs are, some will always side with Uncle Sam – but that choice may become more difficult in the near future, as their country will be part of the European Union. The comfortable times of being “both in and out” will be over. From day one it will require real political courage to assume unpopular decisions in the eyes of Uncle Sam, just as it may require paying some price to enjoy solidarity with the other European nations. Interestingly enough, this sentiment seems to be far more prevalent with Czech citizens than with their political leaders. In this month’s cover story, The Prague Tribune goes beyond the macro-economic picture and the global considerations about European integration. Instead, it addresses the real issues of real people living in the real world. Whether doctors, entrepreneurs or farmers, the people we have profiled speak simply about what becoming part of the big “European family” will mean to them. Read on and find out which side they’ve taken.