Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

21 - Restructuring Democracy and the Idea of Europe


In March 1994, Václav Havel, then President of the Czech Republic, stepped in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and issued a passionate plea for opening up the European Union (EU) toward the East. Nothing less was expected. What captured his audience, however, was his unexpectedly harsh criticism of the emotional poverty of European integration. In his speech, Havel called for an urgently needed “Charter of European Identity” that would clearly set out the ideas and values Europe was intended to embody. The Maastricht Treaty, which then had been in force for only three months, may have been a ground-breaking constitutional document setting out a daring institutional path toward integration. But it lacked an ethical dimension. The Treaty, Havel explained, had engaged his brain, but failed to address his heart.