Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Respekt: Czechs are oblivious to their chance to adopt euro

ČTK |
11 July 2017

Prague, July 10 (CTK) - Czech politicians and the general public seem oblivious to the opportunity to adopt euro, which would prevent the country from moving away from the democratic Western Europe, Katerina Safarikova writes in the weekly Respekt out on Monday.

This indifference is hardly understandable. If the Czech Republic moves on the periphery of Europe, it will be the fault of its own citizens, Safarikova writes.

She quotes Czech central bank (CNB) governor Jiri Rusnok as saying that the country is ready to take the step as it meets the criteria for the adoption of the euro as its currency.

The euro adoption is an exclusively political issue: the opportunity is open now and it is likely to last only months rather than years, she writes.

Former CNB governor Miroslav Singer recently told daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) that the Czech debate about the possible euro adoption is an empty ritual because everybody knows well that the country will never adopt the common European currency, Safarikova writes.

"People can feel that the country, which has a rather solid macroeconomic framework, would not gain anything special with the euro," she quotes Singer as saying.

Singer's opinion is a typical example of the frequent Czech view that can see no financial profit in the euro adoption, Safarikova writes.

If the euro was nothing more than a currency, the Baltic states and the neighbouring Slovakia would have had no reason to join the euro zone because they have "a solid macroeconomic framework" as well, she says.

The Baltic states and Slovakia realised that the euro is a safety lock securing their interconnection with the West, an instrument that turns a mere contractual relation between countries into genuine cooperation because it connects them in a system within which each country is secured by all the others, Safarikova writes, adding that Greece is well aware of this.

It is surprising that this argument is not strong in the Czech Republic, which repeatedly made its future dependent on various bilateral agreements in the past, yet lost its freedom and independence more than once because the agreements all of a sudden became a useless piece of paper, Safarikova writes.

She says Europe in July 2016 and Europe in July 2017 are two very different worlds.

Last year, a depressive mood prevailed in the EU due to the victory of Brexit supporters in Britain and the feeling that a similar development is possible in other EU member states. However, the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France totally changed the atmosphere. Macron offered more of European integration to the French and they welcomed it, and he has made the same offer to Germany, Safarikova writes.

If Chancellor Angela Merkel again wins the German general election due in September, Europe will quickly start moving in order to solidify. The euro zone will be the arena in which the crucial developments will take place and the common currency will be the key to open the doors, Safarikova writes.

She says the possible change is not apparent to the observers of Czech politics and media, but foreign press is full of the expectations of the accelerated pulse of Europe.

The Czech Confederation of Industry, representing the biggest firms in the country, recently called for the adoption of the euro in reaction to the restarted French-German engine in order to secure space for a further development of the country, Safarikova writes.

But Czech politicians remain unconcerned. The election favourite, ANO leader Andrej Babis, considers the euro a failed project that has nothing to do with reality. The main right-wing opposition force, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), rejects the euro for ideologic reasons, and the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) are indecisive, Safarikova says.

Nobody in the country seems to be aware of the new context, she concludes.

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