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Opposition parties criticise PM’s stances at EU summit

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Prague, Feb 20 (CTK) – Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka’s (Social Democrats, CSSD) readiness to understand the British position helped David Cameron win over the European Commission at the EU summit that ended on Friday night, Communist (senior opposition KSCM) leader Vojtech Filip told CTK on Saturday.

On the contrary, the Civic Democrats (right-wing opposition ODS) said Sobotka failed to use an opportunity to support Cameron’s reform proposals. ODS MEP Jan Zahradil said Sobotka should have adopted those British proposals that were advantageous for the Czech Republic.

After complicated negotiations, an EU-UK deal was reached in Brussels last night. The agreement defined a special status of Britain in the EU, giving it safeguards against financial and welfare regulations and against further political integration of the bloc. Cameron said on Saturday the British referendum on the country’s EU membership would be held on June 23 and his government called on all the people to help keep Britain in the EU.

Political scientist Petr Kaniok, from Masaryk University, said the referendum result would be more important than the fresh deal. If the British decided to leave the EU, it could lead to a domino effect because other member countries were dissatisfied with many things, too, he said.

Sobotka represented the Visegrad Group (V4) in bilateral talks with Cameron and European Council President Donald Tusk. The V4 group reached a compromise in Cameron’s plan to curb welfare benefits that Britain paid to workers from other EU states.

Filip said Sobotka was one of those who contributed to the deepening disintegration and differentiation process in the EU.

Kaniok holds a different view. He said the EU would risk disintegration even more if it failed to reach agreement on the British demands.

Filip said the summit showed that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker was weak and incompetent.

Czech Eurosceptic MEP Petr Mach (Free Citizens’ Party) said about the EU summit that Sobotka completely failed to promote Czech interests and Britain has not gained anything in particular.

The opposition TOP 09 appreciated that the EU political leaders managed to reach an agreement. “The staying of Britain in the EU is crucial for us,” TOP 09 deputy chairman Marek Zenisek said.

Kaniok said the position of the Czech delegation at the Brussels summit seemed reasonable to him.

President Milos Zeman can see no reason to comment on Sobotka’s performance at the summit, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said. Ovcacek recalled that Zeman recently told Cameron that he would like Britain to stay part of the EU.

Kaniok said the contents of the deal was far more important from the perspective of British politics than from the perspective of the functioning of the rest of the EU. The other countries showed that they were willing to make concessions to Britain and achieve an agreement, he added.

Kaniok said all the issues included in the deal have been promoted by Britain for a long time. Cameron could return to London and say he brought something he can present to media, he said.

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