The Czech Republic – a satisfied spectator

The Czech Repub­lic has yet to intro­duce the Euro as the country’s cur­ren­cy. How­ev­er, so far there has been a lack of polit­i­cal will to ful­fil the EU mem­ber­ship com­mit­ments on this point. The cur­rent cri­sis has strength­ened the posi­tion of Euro reluc­tant voic­es in the coun­try. Even if none of the estab­lished polit­i­cal par­ties are direct­ly against the intro­duc­tion of the Euro, pri­mar­i­ly the Civic Democ­rats (the major right­ist par­ty – ODS) and the Com­mu­nists have made it clear that ear­ly access to the Euro­zone is not in their inter­est. The oth­er­wise Europhile Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (ČSSD) is, on the oth­er hand, not will­ing to accept the nec­es­sary eco­nom­ic reforms for the Czech mem­ber­ship in the third phase of the Euro­pean Mon­e­tary Union (EMU).11Parízek, Michael: Euro ano, nebo ne? Český diskurz o euru [Euro, yes or no? The Czech dis­course on the euro], in: Drulák, Petr/Handl, Vladimír (eds.): Hledání českých zájmů – Vnitřní roz­man­i­tost a vnější akceschop­nost, Prague 2010. The most promi­nent and also the most out­spo­ken EMU scep­tic in the coun­try, Pres­i­dent Václav Klaus, has used the cri­sis as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to state that his long-term crit­i­cism of the project has been proven cor­rect. Klaus has, among oth­ers, blamed the cur­rent cri­sis in Greece on the country’s choice to intro­duce the Euro.22See, e.g., Klaus.cz: F.A.Z.-Gespräch mit dem tschechis­chen Präsi­den­ten, avail­able at: http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/2577 (last access: 22 June 2010); Klaus.cz: Rozhovor prezi­den­ta repub­liky pro časopis Týden o vol­bách do Posla­necké sně­movny a prob­lémech eurozóny [Inter­view with the pres­i­dent for the week­ly Týden about the elec­tions to the Cham­ber of Deputies and the prob­lems of the Euro-zone], avail­able at: http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/2591 (last access: 22 June 2010).

The country’s posi­tion on the res­cue pack­age for Greece has been influ­enced main­ly by three fac­tors: the country’s posi­tion as a non-mem­ber in the third phase of the EMU, the weak polit­i­cal man­date of the cur­rent care­tak­er cab­i­net and the ongo­ing nation­al elec­tion cam­paign. The country’s involve­ment in the res­cue pack­age is, due to the country’s non-mem­ber­ship in the Euro­zone, rather lim­it­ed and only through the EU res­cue fund. It is also impor­tant to men­tion that the cur­rent Czech gov­ern­ment is large­ly a care­tak­er cab­i­net with an unclear polit­i­cal man­date and that it does not con­sid­er itself in the posi­tion to make any more long-term com­mit­ments on behalf of the Czech Repub­lic; at the same time, the more promi­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the polit­i­cal par­ties were more inter­est­ed in the domes­tic elec­tion race than in sav­ing the Euro. The upcom­ing elec­tions to the Cham­ber of Deputies led to a sit­u­a­tion where politi­cians, espe­cial­ly on the right side of the polit­i­cal spec­trum, tend­ed to use the cri­sis to win polit­i­cal points by warn­ing the elec­torate that this is what would hap­pen if the Social­ists were to win the elec­tions. If we look at the com­ments on the res­cue pack­age in the media, they, to a large degree, tend to reflect what is writ­ten in the Euro­pean media as a whole, such as in The Econ­o­mist. An often-stat­ed point is that the agree­ment was reached too late, and that Ger­many is pri­mar­i­ly to blame for this fail­ure.33See, e.g., Nie­der­may­er, Luděk: Evropa se otáčí správným směrem [Europe is turn­ing in the right direc­tion], 19 May 2010, avial­able at: http://hn.ihned.cz/c1-43631920-evropa-se-otaci-spravnym-smerem (last access: 22 June 2010).

The Czech reac­tions regard­ing what can be learned from the Greek cri­sis are mixed. Dur­ing the Czech Coun­cil Pres­i­den­cy in the first half of 2009, the Czech mes­sage regard­ing the finan­cial cri­sis was that the mem­ber states should main­tain bud­getary dis­ci­pline and keep their com­mit­ments to the Sta­bil­i­ty and Growth Pact.44See, e.g., Braun, Mats: Předsed­nictví za eko­nom­ické recese [The Pres­i­den­cy dur­ing the Eco­nom­ic Cri­sis], Mez­inárod­ní poli­ti­ka, no. 7, 2009. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, the coun­try has had dif­fi­cul­ties in mas­ter­ing its own bud­getary sit­u­a­tion. The Czech reac­tions regard­ing the future of the Sta­bil­i­ty and Growth Pact are gen­er­al­ly pos­i­tive towards stricter bud­getary dis­ci­pline, but simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hes­i­tant towards any step that could be inter­pret­ed as increas­ing the supra­na­tion­al aspects of the Euro­pean inte­gra­tion project. This is in par­tic­u­lar the view of the par­ties on the right side of the polit­i­cal spec­trum. The ini­tial Czech respons­es to the dis­cus­sions on a spe­cial bank tax as well as reg­u­la­tion of hedge funds (espe­cial­ly con­cern­ing the points regard­ing third coun­tries) have been reluc­tant and the gov­ern­ment has sided with the Unit­ed King­dom on most of these issues.55Hospodářské Noviny: Zákrok unie pro­ti velkým fondům prováze­jí spory [The Union’s mea­sures against big funds are fol­lowed by con­tro­ver­sies], 19 May 2010, avail­able at: http://hn.ihned.cz/c1-43631570-zakrok-unie-proti-velkym-fondum-provazeji-spory (last access: 22 June 2010). How­ev­er, the first com­ments regard­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some kind of EU sur­veil­lance of nation­al bud­gets were rather pos­i­tive.66Hospodářské Noviny: Brusel: Rozpoč­tová pravid­la se budou řešit až na podz­im [Brus­sels: The bud­getary rules will be dealt with in the autumn], 19 May 2010, avail­able at: http://hn.ihned.cz/c1-43631560-brusel-rozpoctova-pravidla-se-budou-resit-az-na-podzim (last access: 29 June 2010).

From the Czech per­spec­tive, the Europe 2020 Strat­e­gy was crit­i­cised in its orig­i­nal ver­sion for includ­ing too many num­bers with­out any clear con­tent. It was also crit­i­cised for lack­ing vision regard­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness, a bet­ter cli­mate for entre­pre­neurs and work pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, which are viewed by cen­tral Czech actors as the key com­po­nents for eco­nom­ic growth. The Min­is­ter for Euro­pean Affairs has, among oth­er things, stat­ed that the intend­ed goal of reduced ener­gy depen­den­cy in the Czech Repub­lic is unre­al­is­tic.77Chmiel, Juraj: EU by měla být více „user friend­ly“ [EU should be more user friend­ly], 12 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.euractiv.cz/cr-v-evropske-unii/analyza/juraj-chmiel-eu-by-mela-byt-vice-user-friendly-007353 (last access: 29 June 2010). The Strat­e­gy has also been crit­i­cised by both the organ­ised trade unions and busi­ness inter­ests. Both Jaroslav Šulc from the Czech-Mora­vian Con­fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions and Radek Špicar from Ško­da cars have crit­i­cised the Strat­e­gy for fail­ing to reflect why the Lis­bon Strat­e­gy failed, and both have also ques­tioned the lack of con­se­quences for fail­ing to ful­fil the tar­gets of the Strat­e­gy. How­ev­er, there is a gen­er­al agree­ment on the point that the EU mem­ber states need to invest more in research and sci­ence. The Czech Repub­lic has also start­ed work­ing on a nation­al road map to the Europe 2020 Strat­e­gy. Among the first steps in this direc­tion was a con­fer­ence held in the cham­ber of deputies in May 2010.88Euroskop.cz: Shrnutí kon­fer­ence ke strate­gii “Evropa 2020” [A sum­ma­ry of the con­fer­ence “Europe 2020”], 7 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.euroskop.cz/44/16288/clanek/shrnuti-konference-ke-strategii-evropa-2020/ (last access: 29 June 2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1Parízek, Michael: Euro ano, nebo ne? Český diskurz o euru [Euro, yes or no? The Czech dis­course on the euro], in: Drulák, Petr/Handl, Vladimír (eds.): Hledání českých zájmů – Vnitřní roz­man­i­tost a vnější akceschop­nost, Prague 2010.
  • 2See, e.g., Klaus.cz: F.A.Z.-Gespräch mit dem tschechis­chen Präsi­den­ten, avail­able at: http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/2577 (last access: 22 June 2010); Klaus.cz: Rozhovor prezi­den­ta repub­liky pro časopis Týden o vol­bách do Posla­necké sně­movny a prob­lémech eurozóny [Inter­view with the pres­i­dent for the week­ly Týden about the elec­tions to the Cham­ber of Deputies and the prob­lems of the Euro-zone], avail­able at: http://www.klaus.cz/clanky/2591 (last access: 22 June 2010).
  • 3See, e.g., Nie­der­may­er, Luděk: Evropa se otáčí správným směrem [Europe is turn­ing in the right direc­tion], 19 May 2010, avial­able at: http://hn.ihned.cz/c1-43631920-evropa-se-otaci-spravnym-smerem (last access: 22 June 2010).
  • 4See, e.g., Braun, Mats: Předsed­nictví za eko­nom­ické recese [The Pres­i­den­cy dur­ing the Eco­nom­ic Cri­sis], Mez­inárod­ní poli­ti­ka, no. 7, 2009.
  • 5Hospodářské Noviny: Zákrok unie pro­ti velkým fondům prováze­jí spory [The Union’s mea­sures against big funds are fol­lowed by con­tro­ver­sies], 19 May 2010, avail­able at: http://hn.ihned.cz/c1-43631570-zakrok-unie-proti-velkym-fondum-provazeji-spory (last access: 22 June 2010).
  • 6Hospodářské Noviny: Brusel: Rozpoč­tová pravid­la se budou řešit až na podz­im [Brus­sels: The bud­getary rules will be dealt with in the autumn], 19 May 2010, avail­able at: http://hn.ihned.cz/c1-43631560-brusel-rozpoctova-pravidla-se-budou-resit-az-na-podzim (last access: 29 June 2010).
  • 7Chmiel, Juraj: EU by měla být více „user friend­ly“ [EU should be more user friend­ly], 12 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.euractiv.cz/cr-v-evropske-unii/analyza/juraj-chmiel-eu-by-mela-byt-vice-user-friendly-007353 (last access: 29 June 2010).
  • 8Euroskop.cz: Shrnutí kon­fer­ence ke strate­gii “Evropa 2020” [A sum­ma­ry of the con­fer­ence “Europe 2020”], 7 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.euroskop.cz/44/16288/clanek/shrnuti-konference-ke-strategii-evropa-2020/ (last access: 29 June 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.