Czech Republic – too few European topics attract the attention of politicians and the public

Institute of International Relations

Vít Beneš

We would like to stress the salience of economic topics in the Czech Republic and its public debate. On 28-29 May 2010, the Czech Republic held general elections, with Czech national debt and its budgetary discipline being the core issues debated during the election campaign. The right-wing parties singled out Greece as a negative example of what could happen to the Czech Republic if it does not tackle its own budget deficit.
 
The future of the Euro has been discussed in this context. The Greek crisis provided an argument for President Václav Klaus, who has always criticised the project of a European single currency. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Klaus argued that the Eurozone has failed to deliver the expected considerable economic benefits.[1] He has pointed out that the Greek crisis was triggered by the Greek decision to introduce the Euro in 2002 and that the Euro will survive the current problems but the price will be high.[2] According to Klaus, the Czech Republic has not made a mistake by avoiding membership in the Eurozone. His arguments resonate in Czech society, at least among right-wing media and political elites. Even though Czechs are disturbed by the ongoing global economic crisis,[3] they seem to draw a lesson from the Greek crisis – that the Euro is a problem rather than a solution. According to the latest opinion poll, 55 percent of Czech citizens do not want the Czech Republic to adopt the Euro (38 percents are in favour of its adoption).[4] Among the Euro’s main opponents are the voters of the Social Democrats and the Communists as well as people with a low standard of living.[5]
 

As we have already noted, the Czech pre-election debate about European and international issues has been narrowed down to a relatively few topics: the economic crisis and the Euro supplemented with a continuing expert debate over Czech and European energy security and over the future of the Eastern Partnership. We have also recorded some media coverage of the activities of the Czech member of the European Commission for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle and a very limited public and political discussion about the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech media also reported on the Czech Republic’s complaint about the lack of EU support for the lifting of Canadian visas.[6]


[1] Wall Street Journal: “The Euro Zone Has Failed”, 1 June 2010, available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870487560457528045236554886... (last access: 29 June 2010).

[2] Prague Daily Monitor: Klaus: Euro will survive but price will be high, 23 April 2010.

[3] European Commission: Eurobarometer 72.1. Results for the Czech Republic, October 2009, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_322_fact_cz_en.pdf (last access: 29 June 2010).

[4] Public Opinion Research Centre: Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union, 29 April 2010, available at: http://www.cvvm.cas.cz/upl/zpravy/101034s_pm100429.pdf (last access: 29 June 2010).

[5] Prague Daily Monitor: Poll: Most Czechs against euro adoption, 30 April 2010.

[6] Czech News Agency: Czechs do not feel EU support for lifting of Canadian visas, 25 February 2010, available at: http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/zpravy/czechs-do-not-feel-eu-support-for-... (last access: 29 June 2010).

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