Dr. Busek: "We are about to lose".
By Andreas J. Schröck
18th of July. 2016, Café Imperial Vienna
What do you think about the keyword "dialogue"?
Dialogue was a word in my youth that came up again and again. In the time of the war, but also in the post-war period the ability to talk among the individual groups was not particularly large. The word dialogue was the signal that you need to talk to each other for a common future. There were innumerable companies that operated this - for me it was very strong from church circles. They upheld the dialogues at the time, and also towards other faiths, toward ecumenism, etc. Basically, it is a very general word, it is used in many ways without being limited to what you want to do with it. But that's no reason to limit the word - on the contrary. It is certainly necessary, especially when talking about cultural diversity. That can only work like that, but it has one thing to do with it, that's what I want to say very clearly: education. Dialogue is only possible if educated people exist and they know what they are talking about. This is sometimes a difficulty in connection with the problem of the media landscape, which of course works with monstrous simplification. If you keep track of these days, we have a monocausal media landscape. There is always only one topic - it lasts a few days, then it disappears again. There is no discussion of topics - how and what are the roots - that does not happen. So this structured dialogue regarding causes and effects is urgently needed.
Do you miss that dialogue at European level?
Yes and no. There are some areas where it actually works very well - here I would like to name the fields of culture or art. I have to do with the field of music, in which there is a willingness to talk. Maybe it's because the music does not have to be translated. It has no language problem in this regard. I would also say that e.g. the Erasmus and Socrates programs between universities have generated a lot of very positive results. Compared to my time as a student, this is a tremendous progress, it has become something you take for granted - thank God. This is ultimately very important.
We have to learn to listen to each other again. The ability to listen - to understand the other - is missing. There are two very beautiful words from political theology: empathy and compassion. Empathy is the question of empathy in the others - not only does it mean the Greek word for "compassion", it also means "understanding" or "thinking along", and the same goes for the word compassion - only this word comes from the Latin. But these are basic attitudes that are urgently needed. Today we have a talent for not listening to each other and that is one of the characteristics of populism. One says something that holds the opinion, I do not put myself in any discussion and you take note of that and out. This is certainly one of the biggest difficulties.
How do you define Europe?
There are several definitions. The geographical, with the difficulty that it is not very clear in the East. I was in the Urals and I stood with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia and you can not tell the difference - it does not work. Culturally and historically, there are already differences, only there is the question: How do we cope with diversity? One can not deny to the Russians at all that they are European, that is beyond question. Only we know very little about them and the Russians probably do not know too much about us either. These things of intertwining are too little known to us. It's a bit similar in music or literature, but then it's over. This, in itself, has a great significance when one thinks of Dostoyevsky, these are things of tremendous power, of which we understand too little. We are still - as I say for ourselves - still Western Europeans, not Europeans, we have not understood the part yet.
How do you think the feeling of identity with the EU can be promoted?
The identity confusion in 2005 has led to the rejection of the Constitution in two states. How can citizens learn to understand Europe?
The question is closely related to the education problem. The type of education system , which is widespread today in Austria or elsewhere, sometimes still hangs in the 19th and 20th centuries. Only this is formal knowledge - the ability to talk does not exist on this scale, then comes the difficulty of listening to it. You do not really get to know the other person. For me this is fascinating, in my lifetime, I was born in World War II, post-war, the fall of the Iron Curtain, since then we have the opportunity to form Europe without obstacles, but we ourselves are obstacles because we do not know the other countries.
Through my discussion and lecturing activities, I observe that the geography of our neighboring countries alone is largely unknown. So you cannot understand under certain names. There was a time in Vienna when one confused Slovakia, Slovenia and Slavonia and did not know exactly where something was. And a very beloved example as the Ukraine crisis broke loose, I spoke in front of a full house in Bregenz and I said: I came from Vienna to Bregenz, but that is further than from Ukraine to Vienna. Uzhhorod is the first major city in the Ukraine and it was not believed because our map concept is still so limited that actually the so-called East is actually very far away. That it is actually very close, is beyond question, and this has become even more dynamic - think of the development in Turkey, which has a direct impact on us, when thousands of Turks demonstrate in Vienna. That is, it happens to us, although the whole thing happened in Ankara, Istanbul or elsewhere. That's a crucial question, and education is not just formal, it's about taking in these things and knowing who the other person is, where he's at home, and what the background is. That is also a weakness of our education system.
The youth increasingly loses "Europe as a peace project" in connection with the question of identity from the perspective. Has peace become a matter of course?
This is a very important point of view, in my presentations I always point to the peace project Europe. Things have changed recently - many people have gotten up before and said that we really do not need a peace project, because we have peace anyway. Now it dawns on us that peace does not necessarily work. This is the key contribution of Mr. Putin to the realisation that peace is not guaranteed and we will see what else Erdoğan or similar. We did not really understand the consequences of globalization. It is a buzzword that is constantly being used, but we have become neighbours in every respect, foreign policy does not actually exist. It is now all domestic policy - we depend on each other there. The dream of the Populists or the Right "We are getting back from each other" is completely hopeless. We depend on each other to an incredible extent. I always used to say: Go home, undress and see which of your garments were produced in China, Bangladesh or other countries. And now you go and reject globalisation? Did you see anything from the Vorarlberg textile industry? They do not exist anymore (laughs).
"You can not love a single market, we have to give Europe a soul" Jacques Delors
What is the soul of Europe for you? What accents does Europe need again to attract young people to the idea of Europe?
You have to know the diversity of Europe, not that you can reject it, but that you can even accept it and know what is essential for me and what can I gain from it. So it's an education issue again. But one requirement already exists, and that is tourism. The tourism would have to be used for education and not that you go somewhere and say, "Where is there a decent cafe?". That alone does not matter. Often the tourism goes in this direction, but to be fair one must say that tour operators already make large contributions here.
In your opinion, is Brexit an opportunity for a closer European Union?
First and foremost, Brexit is a chance for us to engage in European development. It surprised everyone, especially those who did it. Nobody expected Brexit to get a majority. I thought it could be open. Now it is necessary to reflect and to wonder how to continue operating Europe. Personally, I am not happy about “core” Europe because of course this immediately excludes other Europeans. The European momentum can now increase or it can be - and one must say soberly - that there is nothing left of the European Union. At the moment, we are going to dismantle things. We are reducing Schengen, and that is a very important matter in terms of freedom of movement, hours of border control in Germany, Hungary or Italy. In that sense, I'm glad about it, because you learn that we are on the verge of losing something. It may also be necessary to remember what is a priority for Europe. The criticism that we have seen on the economic side alone was justified. That does not mean that we should not do the economics , that is reality. It's about whether the other side effects work, so that we can come together.
TTIP: What do you think of the controversial free trade agreement? A chance or a serious mistake?
With all due respect for the farmers, I suffered a lot when joining the EU. One of the great beneficiaries of the accession was agriculture. Thanks to Franz Fischler*, they have a system where they are better off than they have ever been. And now they're having trouble again, according to the motto "Learn to sue without suffering".
TTIP fails because there are two different legal systems: our European one and that of the Americans. And what happens too little is the question: how is a way of approximation possible? Each one is afraid of the other. However, fear does not help - here you just have to move, which you can learn to do. TTIP will fail, if this goes on, which is a mistake, because in itself the economy needs ever larger spaces and the Austrians must know that. By having the security and investing in our neighboring countries, we have gained tremendously. The wealth that still exists in Austria has basically come about as a result. We are still doing well. If you think about the current situation these days, we are still an island of blissful people. Everything that has already happened elsewhere has not yet reached us.
*Dr. Franz Fischler was the European Union's Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries from 1995–2004.
Keyword EU enlargement: How do you assess the current blockade, which is mainly caused by the Eastern European countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Hungary?
They all have the feeling that they are not where we all are, according to the motto "you can afford it". That's partly right, partly wrong. There you have to talk to them, to insult the media alone is not enough. I would have expected from the Foreign Minister (Sebastian Kurz), that he goes to these countries, this mutual condemnation is horrible. It has also been said that all refugees should go to Lesvos, but they have never talked to the Greeks.
Romania and Bulgaria, when they joined the EU, showed major shortcomings in the introduction of European standards. Was joining the right signal?
Joining was certainly the right signal, but it could have been a bit later. I was among those who were very much in favor, but the Western Europeans did not want that. The real culprit was President Chirac at the crucial meeting. I talked about it and recommended that we postpone it, so he got up and said, "Bucharest is the Paris of the east, we have to take them". Of course everyone was impressed, but it was often naive. The same urge was also to be seen in Turkey, I am extremely of the opinion that Turkey does not accept does not qualify as a member. There are so many studies that have foreseen it all. Nobody has read them. I did not read all of them (laughs), but that was obvious.
Austria sees itself as a special advocate for the countries of the Balkans. There is still considerable political disagreement with the incorporation of Balkan states such as Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia. Is the EU ready?
These states have more to offer than the current members. Of course, there is also the expectation that then much will improve for these countries. Preparing for accession is a tremendous driving force. Without accession, much would not happen in Serbia. The EU has also forced us to launch some renewals for which we can only be thankful in retrospect. We just had to make more changes if similar things reoccur.
How do you assess the accession negotiations with Turkey? Turkey as a member of the European Union?
No. The accession negotiations were started by the Americans and they had a clear idea: they need the Turks as a dam against the Soviet Union. So whenever the Soviet fleet went out, the Turks sat on the Bosporus and counted boats. That has changed completely, that is another Turkey - which also has a certain regional role. I have been advocating for years that the EU should clearly tell the Turks that membership will not come. It would be much more sensible than always beating about the bush. That's why we are also blackmailable. And the Turks are also not interested in joining. That's one of the big mistakes.
Was the refugee agreement with Turkey a real step?
The question that I associate with you is, how do we deal with the refugees? The only thing the EU Member States can do is to build fences. But they fail to recognize that we are stopping the refugees in one EU country with regard to the other EU states. The most extreme example is Macedonia. The Macedonian Foreign Minister has appeared in my institute and has said that they are actually already part of the EU because they are holding border refugees on their way to the EU. My question to him then was, where did they come from? Are the Greeks not an EU member? So there you see this twisting of the truth.
Is not enough trying to understand the self-image of the other person, to put oneself in the other’s position, including between Europe and Russia?
Yes, also between Europe and Russia. The solution is, you have to promote Russian studies and cooperation, that is certainly enforceable. One mistake, which is now becoming increasingly clear, but which was clear from the start, is that NATO's expansion to the Russian border was not very helpful. If you ask me, it was not necessary. I understand the concerns of the Baltic States, especially after the annexation of Crimea.
Are the sanctions against Russia effective in your opinion?
No. The oil price is effective, but it is not a result of the sanctions.
What can the EU do specifically for Ukraine?
The EU can help build a functioning state apparatus. Furthermore, it has to persuade Ukraine to federalize - Austria would have a good role in that . You have to create regions - not in the sense of independent states, but in the sense of self-government. This is because the differences in this huge country are too big. This can only work with a different administration. Although I have to say that they do not necessarily want to go to Russia, that's a mistake. They want to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, Ukraine is a centralized state, but that does not work for us.
Conversely, we have to say that we have never given them the prospect of accession and that is one of the legitimate complaints of Ukraine. Until today, this perspective was not opened to them.
How do you see the role of America in Europe?
The Americans are actually withdrawing from Europe step by step. I am a professor at an American university and the Europe institutes are all closed. The Americans go back to themselves - "America to the Americans". They are losing interest in us. Clinton was the last one to have an interest, since then it has been downhill. But we Europeans have also said all the time that we want to take matters into our own hands. You can not always say the Americans should stay away, but for things we do not want to do, the Americans should serve again - keyword: security question, etc.
What are the reasons and causes for the increased occurrence of terrorism and radical acts, as is currently seen in France and also in other European countries? A failure of a necessary, uniform, European asylum and security policy?
No. The situation is not as bad as it might be. What the security policy did not succeed in doing, for example, in France is to help the people who come there to get closer to integration. They live in Parisian suburbs, they are left to themselves and that is certainly a mistake. This is a question of settlement policy, where one should give the people. Also, the cultural connection is problematic here - possibly in some countries, the numbers of those who are migrating are too high, I also see that slowly. Actually, I have always been on the side of those who did not care where people come from, but obviously there is some entry limit and that is apparently required.
What significance does Africa have for Europe?
An ever more important one, because there the population explosion is taking place. Europe should position itself more strongly in Africa if it is not already too late. I have serious misgivings here.
Has Europe fully benefited from the "gift of history" as it once was in 1989?
No. I believe that we have not benefited from our knowledge of these countries, we still do not know each other. There is a bit of tourism, I would like to see that there is more, because it increases your knowledge. Cooperation already exists in the field of science and culture, but that too could be more.
Do you think there is a lack of an EU strategy within the EU?
Yes! A missing strategy of neighbouring countries. If you look at us, we still have not solved our infrastructure problems with our neighbours. There is still no highway to Brno, we dig around a bit or do nothing. Rail links: catastrophic. We are to blame because I do not want to hold the EU liable for that. We are neighbours, we have to see that we get together more.