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Pehe: Causes of Czech Euroscepticism are domestic, not external

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Prague, Nov 30 (CTK) – The prevailing Euroscepticism of Czechs is rather surprising and its causes are evidently internal, not inflicted from outside, political analyst Jiri Pehe wrote in daily Pravo on Thursday.

A recent Eurobarometer poll included a simple question of whether the respondents were glad at living in the EU. With 58 percent of the respondents answering in the affirmative, Czechs finished the last but one before Hungarians (57 percent).

The share of 36 percent of Czechs responding in the negative was even the largest among the EU countries. The 58-36 ratio between the pro-European- and anti-Europe-minded citizens makes the Czech Republic the most Eurosceptic country in the EU, Pehe writes.

In comparison, in the most pro-European country, Luxembourg, the ratio is 97-1.

In the Netherlands, Germany and France, all countries where crucial elections were recently held amid the danger of rising extremism, the ratio is 92-6, 88-6 and 81-13, respectively.

Czech negativism towards the EU is a mystery. Over 80 percent of Czech exports goes to EU countries, which largely contributes to the current economic growth and the record low unemployment in the Czech Republic, Pehe writes.

The Czech net revenues in EU subsidies has been 656 billion crowns since the country’s EU accession in 2004, he writes.

The negative views of Czechs cannot be explained by the problems the EU tackled in recent years either, because all EU countries faced these problems. Even “the victims” of the euro zone crisis, Greece and Italy, are more EU-friendly than the Czechs, Pehe writes.

Nor can be the Czech scepticism explained by specific problems of the Visegrad Four (V4) group, which includes Prague, Bratislava, Budapest and Warsaw, since the ratio between the pro- and anti-Europe forces in Poland and Slovakia is 83-9 and 78-13, respectively, Pehe writes.

The causes therefore evidently lie at home, in people’s historically determined problems with the national identity of Czechs as a nation whose existence is far from a sure thing, and in the tragic weakness of the Czech political elites, Pehe writes.

European issues played a marginal role in the campaign ahead of the Czech October 20-21 general election, even in a situation where the EU has been seriously pondering on launching a two-speed Europe project, Pehe writes.

In the Czech Republic, whose economic structure makes it vitally dependant on the EU, almost no party appeared to resolutely defend Prague’s EU membership and active participation in further European integration, Pehe writes.

As far as the ANO movement’s European policy is concerned, it is as mysterious as it was before the elections, he writes, referring to the election-winning ANO whose leader Andrej Babis is forming a one-party minority government now.

Czech President Milos Zeman, for his part, asserts that he is pro-European, but he does not miss any single opportunity to lash out at the “incompetent” EU, following up his predecessor Vaclav Klaus’s practice, Pehe writes.

The growing discrepancy between the Czech Republic’s real economic interconnection with the EU and the Eurosceptic grumbling by most political forces is a dangerous phenomenon, and the Czechs may eventually pay dearly for it. Politicians, nevertheless, seem unworried in this respect for the time being, Pehe adds.

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