Friday, 16 August 2019

HN: Czechs wrongly view EU as external repressive force

ČTK |
3 May 2016

Prague, May 2 (CTK) - Czechs wrongly view the EU as an outer force of which they expect unilateral solidarity and support but they are unwilling to show reciprocal solidarity with it, Petr Honzejk says in Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Monday, adding that Czech leaders should remind people of the pros of EU membership.

When the Czech Republic was entering the EU in 2004, president Vaclav Klaus was right when he warned people of excessive expectations that might be followed by delusion, since the warning has come true now, Honzejk writes.

The Czech people's trust in the EU is at a record low of 37 percent, which means a 15 percent decline in the past year, he writes, referring to opinion polls.

This could be blamed on the EU's rather incompetent approach to the migrant crisis. However, the crisis has actually not affected the Czech Republic at all. There are almost no refugees in the country. The relocation quotas, hated by Czechs, bind Prague to accept a mere several hundreds of them, and only four have been relocated to the country so far, Honzejk writes.

The refugee crisis seems to have intensified the feeling the Czechs had a long time before: the EU should support the Czechs but it should never want anything from them. If Brussels fails to understand this, the Czechs should leave the EU and their departure would be justified, people believe, Honzejk writes.

On their EU entry in 2004, Czechs felt historical satisfaction. They rejoiced at the country definitively returning from the sphere of the Eastern influence to the prosperous Western world where it belongs, Honzejk writes.

Unfortunately, from the very beginning, Czechs have not viewed their EU membership as a commitment but as a right or a rightful claim, Honzejk writes.

It was understandable, but it made people's relation to the EU problematic from the very beginning, Honzejk writes.

In the past 12 years, Czechs have accepted as automatic all advantages the EU provided to them, such as the 700 billion crowns worth subsidies, free travelling, free trade and the chance of studying and working in the West, Honzejk writes.

On he other hand, solidarity, on which the EU is based, has been understood unilaterally by Czechs. They expected Brussels, Berlin, Vienna and Paris to show solidarity with Prague. They believed it is appropriate for the rich to support the poorer, Honzejk writes.

Whenever the Czech Republic was expected to show solidarity itself, the idea met with lack of understanding, to put it mildly, Honzejk writes.

In situations such as the migrant crisis, the Czechs argued that they did not cause the problem, which is why they should not be asked to help tackle it, Honzejk writes.

Czechs even accuse the EU of having failed to fulfil its promise and raise their living standards to a level comparable to Germany's, which is why the EU must not dare to place Arabs in the Czech Republic, Honzejk writes.

Similar moods can also been seen in other central European countries, but nowhere they are so intensive as in the Czech Republic. The Czechs are the only nation to believe that the cons of the EU membership prevail over the pros, Honzejk writes, referring to the Lord Ashcroft survey.

The Czechs' mood may be due the country's failure to benefit from EU membership as much as its neighbours, whose economic approximation to the EU average has been faster. Instead of considering ways to improve the situation, the Czechs seek excuses. They create theories on how the EU subsidies have deformed the national economy, raised corruption etc. As if it were the donor, not the recipient, who is responsible for the way of using subsidies, Honzejk writes.

The Czechs believe they would fare much better without the "malignant" regulations imposed by Brussels. They have done nothing to speed up the Czech Republic's convergence and they blame all related troubles on Brussels, Honzejk writes.

This comfortable style of thinking, which rids the Czechs of any responsibility or fault, has even been supported by many Czech politicians. This is irresponsible, because Brussels is no external repressive force comparable to Berlin or Moscow in the 20th century, though this is fashionable to assert, Honzejk writes.

The Czech Republic's prosperity is tied to the EU. The collapse of the Schengen area alone would pose big problems to the Czech economy based on exports. The political aspect, which many consider abstract, is probably even more important. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU in 2012 was not unfounded, Honzejk writes.

On the one hand, the Czech record low support for the EU is a warning to Brussels, which should start operating more effectively and comprehensibly and it should start concentrating on problems that really worry people, Honzejk writes.

At the same time, it is a warning to responsible Czech politicians and businesspeople, who should remind people of the pros of the EU membership and they should remind people of that the Czech Republic is a part of the EU, Honzejk writes.

Otherwise, the Czech Republic may finally slop back to the area of [Eastern] influence from which it successfully escaped some time ago, he concludes.

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