Our assumed role in history seems to be cursed by the metaphors of transport structures. First, Czechoslovakia was supposed to be a “bridge between East and West”. Which, as you know, ended up in the East, after which the bridge behind us was burned. In the 21st century, we should again have the ambition to become the “crossroads of Europe”, at least according to Prime Minister Petr Fiala.
He elaborated on the idea of the intersection last month at the “Czech Republic at the Crossroads – Vision and Strategy for the Next 30 Years” conference. Violet stamps the motto “the main crossroads of Europe“, he used it a total of four times in the aforementioned speech.
In addition, he said, for example:
“Being a crossroads is our traditional role, for which we have geographical, but also cultural, economic and intellectual prerequisites.”
But, added Fiala, “our problem is that we are still standing at that crossroads. We look around, unable to choose a direction, although the green light has been shining for a long time. But now it seems that the green one will go out at any moment and we are waiting for the right moment.”
However, “once our country becomes a real crossroads, it will lead to such a transformation of the economy that will provide people with a better quality of life, better work, easier travel or perhaps a better environment.”
And that’s why, said the prime minister, “I offer a vision that we will become a real crossroads of Europe. A smart, well-designed and safe intersection that can lead you to a better life and a better work.”
Nothing against visions. But the whole intersection terminology and the idea of the intersection as a carrier of our prosperity is unsettling in its own way. All the more so when the speech included asphalt, concrete and everything that goes with it: “If we want to be one of the main intersections in Europe, we will never be able to do it without a sufficient number of real intersections, highways, underpasses, overpasses and bridges.”
Don’t we have the drop crossed? I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly keen on living in a crossroads country. Is it really fortunate that a cross-road should be established as the goal of our endeavor? In all senses of the word, from the most metaphorical to the actual inhospitable road junctions?
“Our largest intersection is the MÚK Modletice (Dobřejovice) near Prague at the intersection of the D1 highway and the Prague ring road R1. It currently occupies an area of approximately 36 ha. However, the intersection is still not completely finished, and therefore, after the completion of the parts connecting to the under-construction section to Běchovice, it will become even larger,” Mapy.cz reports.
AND? Should such information rather fill me with satisfaction, what possibilities we have, or rather with fear, what will happen if we turn into the main crossroads of Europe? (If the idea itself isn’t a bit grandiose, let’s leave it aside for now.)
Sure, no one is going to move us from the middle of the continent, so building a literal crossroads of Europe here makes logistical sense. Moreover, when the industry stands and falls with the local autoland. But isn’t it a bit much to be a crossroads?
The intersection itself is not something great. It has many downsides. When it comes to traffic intersections, the main concern of anyone who finds themselves at them is to get away quickly. That’s probably not part of the vision. “Crossroads”, that’s also noise, noise, stress. Although it is, as Fiala says, “smart, safe and well-designed,” “accidents” happen there.
If I had to dare to weave visions, I would not choose the symbol of the intersection. Vision is freedom. With which junction traffic – and Europe’s main junction must be damn busy – is little compatible.
Road signs, lanes, traffic lights and the necessary “traffic-delaying” pedestrian crossings are attributes of order. Even intersections in the figurative sense of the word need to be constantly guided by some rules. A vital crossroads would not be a crossroads, but a coincidence, a muddle, at best an intersection. Probably nothing that could be included in the Prime Minister’s national vision.
At a traffic intersection, the space for free will remains minimal. Free choice is risky and actually forbidden here. Crossroads equals purpose, invention. Not the horizon of human endeavour. But we are Central Europe, we don’t have the sea, but the golden hands do, so the mission of the intersection is said to be based on this: we enter it along Dějiny, the exit is in the direction of Bude líp.
By the way, Prime Minister Fiala’s speech, even though it was longer and more elaborate for objective reasons, ended similarly to the speech of Prime Minister Babiš in November 2019 at the National Museum:
“I am absolutely convinced that the Czech Republic can once again be one of the most advanced countries in the world, if in the next ten years it can make full use of its geographical location, economic and human potential and become a true main crossroads of Europe. Thank you for your attention!” (Fiala.)
“However, we are a great country full of great people who have what it takes to prove to the world that we can compete with the most advanced countries in the world in all aspects of life. We should all know it, so let the whole world know it. I keep my fingers crossed for all of us and our beautiful country!” (Babiš.)
It’s okay to encourage confidence. Statesmen should have it in their job description. But there is no need to get citizens excited about the intersection project, both as a metaphor and as an infrastructure building task.
Working our way among the ten or so most developed countries in the world is gratifying, or brings satisfaction with what we have achieved – but that is not the task. More important is the ranking of individuals, not of national teams, although fortunately no one knows and guides it. More important is the price and the meaning of freedom.
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