>Eurobarometer 64: Czechs sceptically in favour of political union

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I have been reading the tea leaves of the latest Eurobarometer on the Czech Republic, looking mainly at attitudes to democracy and the EU Constitution.

The Dutch and French referendum votes of May/June 2005 were followed by a marked decline in Czech support for the EU Constitution which, as with other planned integration measures, had previously enjoyed steady majority support broadly in line with that for EU membership itself with which most Czechs are happy or neutral two years in. Eurobarometer glosses over just how marked the turn around in opinion was. Although one poll suggested that a narrow majority still favoured the Constitution, most polls from June and July 2005 recorded majorities against the Constitution with a large number of undecided voters breaking a pattern of Czech public support for the Constitution integration measures broadly in line with levels of support for EU membership itself. Significantly, one pollster, STEM recorded a marked drop in support for the Constitution among ODS voters from 73 per cent in February 2005 to 43 per cent in July 2005 with a corresponding growth in opposition from 27 per cent to 53 per cent suggesting that for the first time bringing the views of Civic Democrat voters had moved into line with party’s ‘euro-realism’

However, Eurobarometer suggested a more complex picture, finding that a large majority of Czech respondents still agreed that an EU Constitution would make the Union more efficient, more transparent and more democratic. Most, however favoured the negotiation of a new constitutional document over continued ratification of the existing Constitutional Treaty or the abandonment of any efforts to agree a constitution and only a narrow majority thought a constitution indispensable. Such views placed Czechs among the most sceptical EU member states. However a large and stable majorities supported the trend towards the European political union in general terms and expressed a willingness to transfer further powers to EU level in the fields such as security, foreign policy or environmental protection, although not in areas such as tax, social policy, healhcare or pensions.

Compared to both the EU25 and the 10 new member states Czechs had a powerful sense that their views carried little weight in the EU and correspondingly little sense of being involved in European events. They only seemingly want to retain control of the bread-and-butter who-gets-what-issues that dominate Czech politics. Paradoxically, although trust in EU institutions in the CR was low, they were still trusted more than most domestic Czech political institutions, indicating a characteristic anti-political cynicism towards politics and the state (even their own national state) not shared by, for example, respondents in the UK.

They also had some rather contradictory views on participation and the democratic deficit – this time in line with the EU average. “Four out of ten Czechs” the Eurobarometer report noted “say they would like to be more involved in European matters, but do not know what to do about it. There is a prevailing view that it is mainly government, including Czech, European and local governments, that should try to involve the public in European matters”. The message: involve us please but in a top-down way such that we don’t have to do anything. Hard to avoid the view that EU citizens get the Union they deserve – and perhaps the Union that they really want, despite the protestation that they would like to be involved.

The Report thus concludes dryly that “only a fifth of the Czech and European public chose as one of the three priorities for the EU bringing it closer to citizens and making them better informed about the EU and its policies and institutions. This finding indicates that the D Plan (Democracy, Dialogue and Discussion) announced by Commission President Barassou in late November 2005 is not awaited with any great anticipation by either the Czech or European publics”

The full length national report seems only available in Czech but an executive summary for the CR and a longer overview of first results are available is in English HERE

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