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Pehe: Czech opposition to EU is very emotional

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Prague, April 30 (CTK) – The opposition to the European Union is based on emotions rather than a reasonable debate in the Czech Republic much more than in other EU states and Czech politicians make the situation even worse by their unwillingness or inability to act like Europeans, Jiri Pehe writes in daily Pravo on Saturday.

A recent CVVM opinion poll showed that only 37 percent of Czechs trust the EU, which has been the lowest level of confidence since 2004 when the country joined the EU.

The EU certainly deserves criticism for many mistakes and indecision in critical times and all member countries have their Eurosceptic parties and pro-European ones. However, the political spectrum in the Czech Republic is different, Pehe writes.

The Czech system of parties in parliament has the Eurosceptic Civic Democrats (ODS) on the right and the Communists (KSCM) on the left. Between the ODS and the KSCM are parties that support the EU but they do so half-heartedly and in ways that can hardly persuade anybody that it is good to be part of the EU, Pehe writes.

He says President Milos Zeman behaves in a similar manner.

Unlike his predecessor Vaclav Klaus, Zeman hoisted the European flag above the Prague Castle, but he has not said a single good thing about Brussels since then. Zeman’s fans understand his attacks on the EU over of the sanctions imposed on Russia and the incapability to resolutely face the refugee crisis first of all as messages that the country could be better off outside the EU, Pehe writes.

He says even pro-EU politicians in other countries are sometimes unable to resist the temptation of blaming Brussels for unpopular steps they have to take, but the gap between “us” and “EU” is nowhere as huge as in the Czech Republic.

Only seldom some politician, for example Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, declares that the EU is “us” rather than “them,” Pehe writes.

Czech politicians have failed not only in recalling the advantages of EU membership but also in explaining the economic and security consequences of the possible weakening or even breakup of the EU. And almost never they lead European initiatives that could improve the functioning of the EU, Pehe writes.

The Czech Republic behaves more or less like a free rider. The EU is first of all what its member states have made of it. Whenever Czech politicians mock the EU, they mock themselves, although they claim that a small country like the Czech Republic has no say in the big bloc, Pehe says.

But these Czech politicians do not tell people that if our allegedly smart small nation cannot push its ideas through in the sometimes bureaucratic yet still pluralistic EU, it will definitely have no chance to defend its national interests if Europe returns to the model of completely sovereign national states that make utilitarian alliances, Pehe writes.

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