The new prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, signalled ahead of his meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday, that his government would bring the Czech Republic back to the European mainstream. Previously under centre-right governments and under a former euro-sceptic president, the country had shifted undeniably to the periphery.
“Until now the Czech Republic was really outside the EU mainstream, policy set solely by the past two governments with influence from the Castle – that is former president Václav Klaus. All of these created a combination that was not very conducive to more active Czech involvement in European politics. [That didn’t make a great deal of sense when you consider that] the Czech Republic is an export-oriented country where 80 percent of its exports go the European Union and 30 percent to Germany.
“Isolating the country politically along let’s say ideological lines, is not very wise but this is exactly what the Topolánek and Nečas governments did. I think it is smart that the current government heading closer back to the main ship, to take a seat at the table and try to co-formulate where the ship goes and have a voice. Rather than being an outsider.”
Concretely, the prime minister in his meeting made clear the Czech Republic will back the EU’s fiscal pact and drop an earlier opt-out that was pushed through by the former president. Does the country lose anything by retracting those former positions?
“I don’t think so. Those are largely symbolic measures that will not have too many practical consequences on the Czech Republic now or even in the future. I think it is certainly a visible gesture and an important one that will return us to the table. It’s an important move given the danger of a two-tier Europe. I don’t think it would be at all to the advantage of a small export-oriented country like the Czech Republic to be left in the second tier.”