On Friday, July 22, 2016, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek for a conversation on Europe in times of Brexit. GMF President Karen Donfried moderated the event, which is part of the Transatlantic Talks series.
Zaorálek began by articulating his belief that the first task after the referendum is to “learn the lessons” of the Brexit vote and their application Europe-wide. The Minister said he is “deeply convinced that this decision [to exit the European Union] is a disaster” for all involved. And, unfortunately, there are similar separatist feelings within other EU member states that European leaders must address. According to Zaorálek, “the future is in cooperation” between EU member states, and with their partners across the Atlantic. Given the recent uptick in terrorist attacks in Europe, combined with the pervasiveness of contemporary media, many voters on both sides of the Atlantic feel as though elected representatives are unable to protect them from emerging threats. In response, Zaorálek called for greater transatlantic cooperation and integration on security issues. He indicated his belief that the United States must remain engaged in global affairs. And the United Kingdom, with its robust military capabilities, should maintain its integrated transatlantic security stance, despite its decision to leave the EU.
Beyond Brexit, Zaorálek cautioned those who say today’s challenges demand radical solutions. He stated “it is nonsense” when politicians or voters say they “want to change everything.” Zaorálek said that the “people in the Czech Republic have some experience with revolutions,” and they understand better than most the concrete negative effects radical political changes can bring to people’s lives. Instead, Zaorálek advocated for “evolutionary changes” to criticized institutions like the EU or the American political establishment to prevent the type of negative ramifications and disorder the world has seen in the wake of the Brexit referendum.