>Czech public opinion: more Euro-sceptic than eurosceptic?

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Czechs have a somewhat underdeserved reputation as a nation of eurosceptics, but – despite the heavy duty ‘euro-realism’ of President Klaus and other Civic Democrat luminaries over the years – the Czech public (and above all the right-wing inclined Czech public) has been solidly in favour of (if ignorant about) both EU membership and most curent (and planned) forms of EU integration (Common Security and Foreign policy, environment and – despite a short-lived downward turn – the French and Dutch referendums of 2005 the becalmed Constitutional Treaty). Legions of the Czech Republic’s better off, better educated, heavily pro-European right-wing voters have simply tended to be oblivious to their party’s rampant ‘euro-realism’ which it has, in any case, downplayed in domestic election campaigning since the departure of Klaus as party leader. The biggest blocs of eurosceptics are found among left-wing (and especially Communist) voters, who are more rural/small town, worse off, older and more concentrated in the state sector – a pattern common across CEE. There are, however, limits to the Czechs’ lukewarm embrace of the European project, which Eurobarometer and other polling has suggested can be found in any suggestion of transferring control over social and economic policies to Brussels.

It is therefore interesting to see in the latest CVVM polling report just how solidly a bloc of public opinion has hardened against adoption of the Euro, narrowing the majority in favour from 29% in 2001 to 7% today – a result many of ‘don’t knows’ becoming ‘nos’. Another interpretation is that – as with membership of the EU itself – opposition tends to harden up as change becomes a more concerete prospect. Except that Euro adoption isn’t on the cards in the CR until around 2009-10, neither is not an issue exactly grabbing the headlines. Deficits in public financing make meeting the Maastricht criteria a challenging prospect and – as a rather interesting PhD thesis I examined last year argued – the party system tends to act as a brake.

The Civic Democrats have (in theory) ideological objections to Euro and official party policy is hold a referendum on Euro adoption, although whether this would merely be over timing or an acquis-busting attempt to opt out is unclear. Contradicting this, declarations by ODS politicians seem to reckon clearly with Euro membership – Topolánek suggested last year only his party’s zeal to reform public finances would mean joining sooner than expected. However, the party’s flat tax plans – now diluted by coalition partners and likely to be largely stymied due to lack of a real parliamentary majority – would have entailed hair-raising increases in the public deficit and an unceratin bet on a spurt of rapid economic growth rapidly righting things. The opposition Social Democrats are ideologically all in favour of the Euro, but rather less in favour of the reductions in public spending required to bring it about rapidly.

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One response to “>Czech public opinion: more Euro-sceptic than eurosceptic?”

  1. oulematu says :

    >It’s a paradox. The Civic Democrats should theoretically support the interests of big business, which clearly wants a definite time plan for the euro introduction. As in many other cases, the Civic Democrats’ position on this issue doesn’t make much sense. Sometimes it looks like the Civic Democrats just want to hang on to as much power as possible, regardless of the interests of their voters.

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