Monday, 21 May 2018

HN: Prague is deeply lost in changing EU, offers no solution

22 March 2017

Prague, March 21 (CTK) - Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek's (Social Democrats, CSSD) criticism of the European Union has showed that the Czech Republic is desperately lost in the changing EU and offers defensive reflexes but no solution, David Klimes writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Tuesday.

After its failure in the regional elections last autumn, the CSSD clearly decided to exert huge effort to win over more voters. It appears that all CSSD government members have to take part in the strong campaign half a year before the general election, Klimes says.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) is pushing through all kind of subsidies and welfare benefits and he is kowtowing to the senior opposition Communists (KSCM), Klimes writes.

He says Interior Minister Milan Chovanec posed for cameras with a gun to underline his image of the chief police officer of the Czech nation, while Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka removes all progressivist excesses of his predecessor Jiri Dienstbier (all CSSD).

For a short time, it seemed that Zaoralek would not have to be involved in this new strategy of "an armed fist of the working class," but now it is apparent that he, too, will have to play his role in it, Klimes writes.

Zaoralek said the EU countries should restrict the movement of the workforce according to their own preferences, though he moderated his statement later. He said Brussels does poor work, the British vote for Brexit is understandable and there should be more inter-governmental cooperation in the EU, Klimes writes.

Has Zaoralek suddenly radically changed his opinions? No. The re-elected CSSD deputy chairman just must try to help increase the party's popularity before the elections, Klimes says.

But Zaoralek is not only a CSSD deputy chairman but also the Czech foreign policy chief. When he proposed to curb labour movement across the EU, he violated the four freedoms of the single market: the movement of products, people, services and capital. This runs against the interests of the extremely open and export-oriented Czech economy as well as against the interests of many Czechs who work in Austrian and German border regions or even somewhere more far away in the EU, Klimes writes.

One cannot understand why Zaoralek has joined the group of troublemakers who exaggerate the EU mistakes and refuse to admit that many of the mistakes were based on wrong national decisions, Klimes writes.

He says support for the restriction of movement of the workforce contradicts everything that the Czech Republic sought after its EU entry in 2004 when it had sharp disputes with the neighbouring Germany and Austria about how long their labour markets would be closed to Czechs.

Zaoralek's fresh statements harm the position of the Visegrad Group, comprising Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Though this group is not functioning very well, it firmly says that a Polish plumber, a Czech cook, a Slovak baby-sitter and a Hungarian shop assistant should have the right to work anywhere in the EU even if it means that it may take jobs from local workers who demand higher salaries, Klimes writes.

Zaoralek's attack against European institutions is "absolutely unacceptable," he says.

Zaoralek repeatedly criticises European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Juncker may be unfit for the position of the leader of the European executive power, yet Zaoralek should remember that even the Party of European Socialists, of which the CSSD is a member, wanted a stronger and more political leader after the Jose Barroso era, Klimes writes.

If Juncker's socialist rival Martin Schulz had won the post of EC President, Zaoralek would have not been protesting now, he says.

Zaoralek's criticism of the European Parliament is nothing but hypocrisy, Klimes indicates.

It has been clear for a long time that the EP is not a body suitable for talks about the level of federalisation of the EU because the EP will always want to have more powers. But this was known already when the Lisbon Treaty made the EP stronger, Klimes writes.

Zaoralek does not say a single word about the incapability of Czech politicians. Czech lawmakers almost never use the opportunity to protest against the emerging EU legislation using the so-called yellow card. A lot of them even are not aware of the existence of the yellow card, Klimes says.

Despite his lengthy criticism of the bad functioning of the EU, Zaoralek has not presented his view on the five proposals for the further development of the European integration that Juncker presented, Klimes writes.

He says Juncker has proposed five paths, from very loose relations to a federalist model.

This is the moment at which the member states should voice clear positions and try to convince the others. Austria proved that this task is not only for the big countries - it submitted a plan for a lower number of European commissioners, a stronger EU in key affairs such as foreign policy, and the transfer of some partial powers back to the national states, Klimes writes.

However, the Czech position remains unknown, he says.

It is merely known that the Czechs want to have all European advantages, such as the EU funds and the single market with Germany, but that they do not want to promise anything, especially if this means to provide aid to somebody else. When it is unavoidable to provide aid, the Czechs are ready to help rather symbolically, arguing that the big problems should be dealt with by the big countries, Klimes writes.

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