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Sobotka: Prague will insist on preservation of free movement in EU

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Prague/Brussels, Nov 10 (CTK) – The Czech Republic will insist on preserving the free movement of people and same rights for all EU citizens, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said yesterday in reaction to EU reforms proposed by Britain.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis reacted similarly.
On the other hand, the British proposal has been hailed by the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) as a step opening a discussion about a crucial EU reform.
In a speech earlier yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron presented the EU reforms that London demands as a condition for its remaining in the EU. He called for a restriction of the free movement of people in the EU and of the welfare going to EU foreigners coming to Britain.
“As far as the British proposals for an EU reform are concerned, the Czech Republic will insist on the preservation of the free movement of people and equal rights for all EU citizens,” Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) wrote on Twitter.
To the Czech Republic, any change to the free movement of people means a very serious problem. The right to live and work anywhere in the EU is quite crucial, in view of the historical experience, Sobotka said later in a press release.
“Most Czech citizens consider the free movement the main positive aspect of EU membership. It is unimaginable for us to give up the advantages which this freedom ensures,” Sobotka said.
In the areas of sovereignty and justice, or a balanced relation between the countries in and outside the euro zone, the Czech Republic is ready to support proposals that would “lead to a higher transparency, better communication between euro zone members and non-members, and the deepening of economic cooperation between all 28 [EU] countries,” Sobotka wrote.
Babis (ANO), on his part, told journalists in Brussels that the Czech Republic wants the principle of the free movement of workforce to be observed in the EU.
“This is definitely an unacceptable proposal,” Babis said during a visit to Brussels, referring to the demands Cameron presented ahead of a British referendum on the country´s EU membership.
Similarly, Tomas Prouza (CSSD), Czech state secretary for European affairs, said on Twitter that for the Czechs, the right to live and work in EU countries has been and will be the basic principle of integration.
“We will back steps that would push the EU forward. We cannot back steps that would divide the EU,” Prouza said.
The Czech Republic wants Britain to remain in the EU, he added.
Babis said, however, that he agrees with Cameron´s effort to ensure a situation where there will be no differences between euro zone members and the countries that do not use the euro.
“In this respect, we definitely can back him,” Babis added.
ODS chairman Petr Fiala said the “still narrower EU is untenable. That is why I welcome it that Britain has launched a responsible debate about a crucial reform of the EU, leading to looser European cooperation,” Fiala said.
The ODS is for the abolition of the euro and for a stronger role of national parliaments, and against a further unification of fiscal and welfare systems, Fiala said.
Nevertheless, the ODS wants the free movement of people to be preserved, he said.
The other Czech rightist opposition party, TOP 09, too, said it is against the free movement of people being restricted.
“A debate may be conducted on increasing the powers of national parliaments and mainly on changes that would help the EU to react faster to and solve acute problems such as the migrant crisis, TOP 09 spokeswoman Martina Mackova told CTK.
Jiri Dolejs, deputy chairman of the opposition Communists (KSCM), too, said he considers any restrictions in this respect unsubstantiated.
“It would be unreasonable to discriminate against the new member countries. I think it would be unfair,” Dolejs told CTK.
He said an EU reform should better enhance the process of democratic decision making and reduce the prevalence of bureaucracy.

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