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LN: Brexit limits Czech freedom of choosing strong EU ally

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Brexit will strip Prague of the freedom to occasionally side either with Germany or France or Britain in the EU, but on the other hand, it will leave the post-communist countries with a joint blocking majority, Roman Joch writes in Lidové noviny (LN) Friday.

Prague, March 31 (CTK) – Brexit will strip Prague of the freedom to occasionally side either with Germany or France or Britain in the EU, but on the other hand, it will leave the post-communist countries with a joint blocking majority, Roman Joch writes in Lidove noviny (LN) Friday.

Until now, the Czech Republic has been able to “triangulate” between Germany, France and Britain and side with each on different issues for the benefit of its own interests, Joch, who heads the Civic Institute, writes.

For example, Prague could ally with Germany in promoting pro-business affairs, with Britain in promoting anti-regulation issues and with France in promoting nuclear energy preservation.

With Britain’s departure, it will be very difficult for it to reject agreements struck by France and Germany, Joch writes.

Nevertheless, the EU’s post-communist members, including the Czechs, will gain a blocking minority. If they agree on something and proceed jointly, they can block anything they dislike, Joch writes.

Prague must wish that its relations with Britain change as little as possible after Brexit, that Brexit have the least possible impact on both sides and that above-standard bilateral relations, including economic and political, be preserved, Joch writes.

In the forthcoming negotiations with Britain, the Czech Republic has to define its position or what it wants in exchange for British citizens’ free movement across Europe and easy gaining of jobs, Joch writes.

He proposes that Prague’s priority demand may be that Czech students can smoothly continue studying at British universities.

With whom in the EU should the Czech Republic intensify its cooperation after Brexit? With its partners in the Visegrad Four (V4) group (Hungary, Poland and Slovakia)? With Germany? With Scandinavia and the Baltic countries? With all simultaneously, if possible? Joch asks.

Czech economy is a province of German economy, which is not bad for the Czechs. It is clearly desirable to further intensify economic cooperation with Germany, Joch writes.

However, it would be unwise to bet on this single card only, which the Czech government Social Democrats (CSSD) tend to do, feeling “ashamed” of some V4 allies, he continues.

True, Prague’s cooperation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been excellent. Her approach to Czech (and Polish) interests is very accommodating and generous, which will never repeat with any of her successors. This is a reason for the Czechs to wish her keeping the post of chancellor after the autumn elections, Joch writes.

Nevertheless, they must realise that Merkel will not remain chancellor forever. After some time, she will be replaced by someone like Martin Schulz (Social Democrats, SPD), or even by Martin Schulz himself. Is it absolutely sure that he would not strike a deal with Vladimir Putin? Joch writes.

If so, the Czechs could not react but by markedly intensifying their defence and security cooperation with Poland, he writes.

Simply, Prague cannot afford outsourcing its foreign policy exclusively in favour of Germany before knowing what the German foreign policy will be, Joch writes.

Another question is what Britain’s foreign policy will be like after Brexit, he continues.

Some British and U.S. commentators speak about an anglosphere, or the English-speaking nations, as Winston Churchill put it, a project of intensified cooperation between Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and partly also India, Joch writes.

This idea seems to be backed by Trump, who has admitted the possibility of a free trade zone between the USA and post-Brexit Britain, in spite of his protectionist policy towards almost all world countries, Joch writes.

Brexit, though unwelcome by the rest of the EU, has proved that not all important decisions are made by powerful elites but that people may make it clear that the path followed by elites is undesirable. British voters did so in the Brexit referendum and U.S. voters in the presidential election last year, Joch writes.

Paradoxically, those who knew that the path was wrong did not need any such warning, while those who needed a warning continue to pretend that everything is in order, Joch concludes.

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