Czechia EU presidency aims to 'write the future of Europe' by revising its past

While most historians place the start of WWII in 1939, the Czech EU presidency video moves it back to 1938, when the Munich Pact was signed. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.06.2022 15:05:00 (updated on 16.06.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech government presented its goals for the upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union, along with a new logo, a motto, and an introductory video, at a press conference. What caught journalists' attention was one small detail in the video. It said that World War II started in 1938, not 1939.

It is not clear if this is a mistake or if the people who made the video are pointing to the 1938 Munich Pact, which broke up Czechoslovakia in an effort to appease Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, as the actual start of the war as far as what is now the Czech Republic is concerned.

There were two versions of the video, a short one in Czech and a longer one in English. The short one starts with 1938 and the start of World War II, then goes to the Soviet-led Warsaw Part invasion of 1968, the Velvet Revolution of 1989, and then the war in Ukraine in 2022. The longer one also includes the creation of the EU in 1958 and Czech accession to the EU in 2004, and more historical footage.

Both end with the new logo for the Czech presidency and the phrase, “Now is the time to write the future of Europe.”

While a website for the EU presidency has been launched and the logo is there, the video is notably absent. The YouTube channel linked to from the site’s media section, EU2022_CZ, is empty. The videos can be seen, though, as part of the Facebook coverage of the press conference starting at 23:30 for the Czech version and 24:00 for the English version.

Hospodářské noviny editor Ondřej Houska pointed out the discrepancy at the press conference. “Please don't take it as pedantry, but you just wrote that World War II started in 1938, so maybe you'll have time to fix it before it's published,” he said.

According to news server iDnes, neither Prime Minister Petr Fiala nor Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek addressed the issue.


The government introduces its video. Photo via Facebook.
The government introduces its video. Photo via Facebook.

Military History Institute director Aleš Knížek told iDnes that the 1938 date could be intentional. “I do not want to claim that this is the beginning of the Second World War, but I would perhaps see in it a reference to the Czech view of events, an effort to represent it externally,” he said.

He added that the Munich Agreement and subsequent occupation of the border area in 1938 was already decisive for Czechoslovakia.

Zdeněk Hazdra, the former director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, also told iDnes that 1938 was when people in Czech society already felt they were in a state of war.

Other historians though hold that World War II began on Sept. 1, 1939, with Germany’s invasion of Poland.

The government also released the slogan for its presidency: “Europe as a Task: Rethink, Rebuild, Repower.” It refers to a 1996 essay by the late Czech President Václav Havel and is a reminder that we all need to work continuously toward a modern and functioning Europe, according to the EU presidency website.  

“For the second Czech presidency, the greatest inspiration in Havel´s texts dwells in their leitmotiv, which is the demand for critical re-thinking of the task that lies ahead of Europe and Europeans,” European Affairs Minister Bek said.

The logo is adapted from the one used during the first Czech presidency in 2009.

The graphic symbol contains 27 elements, stylized as compass needles, representing each EU member state. Each element is based on the colors of each state’s flag instead of the two-letter abbreviations used in the 2009 logo.

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