A survey has found that most Czechs remain positive towards Europe, with 54% of respondents saying they would like to stay in the European Union and 34% stating they would be in favour of a ‘Czexit’. The rest, or 12%, could not say.
Nevertheless, the independent think tank that carried out the survey—the Prague-based EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy—said on February 22 that the results showed that Czech support for the EU remained the weakest in Central Europe. It said that parallel surveys conducted by counterpart institutions in Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia concluded that 84%, 69% and 79% of respondents, respectively, wanted their country to stick with membership of the European bloc.
The EUROPEUM survey result somewhat contrasts with a Eurobarometer poll conducted last October that concluded that only 29% of Czechs would describe EU membership as a “good thing”.
Christian Kvorning Lassen, a research fellow at EUROPEUM, who was responsible for the Czech part of the survey, told public broadcaster Radio Praha: ʺThe Czech Republic is the most Eurosceptic country at least according to this survey and compared to the other surveyed countries. Something that stands out in the Czech findings is that just like in Brexit young people are generally pro-European but contrary to Brexit, the older generation, the 66-plus year-old people, are also predominantly positive towards the EU. What we found instead is that the 36 to 50 year-olds are predominantly anti-European or Eurosceptic at least, followed by the next age group, 51-65 years old.ʺ
As anticipated, EUROPEUM’s survey of Czechs’ attitudes to the EU found scepticism high among the unemployed, self-employed and those with only a basic or elementary education. Provincial attitudes to Brussels were also, as expected, generally more critical than those of city dwellers.
If he successfully forms an administration over the coming months, the current Czech caretaker prime minister, Andrej Babis, will be expected to deal with a push from Kremlin-friendly Czech President Milos Zeman and the neo-fascist Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party of Tomio Okamura—which has 22 seats of parliament’s 200 seats—for the introduction of a law which would make referenda constitutionally possible on issues including continued Czech membership of the EU. Babis himself has told foreign ambassadors to Prague that he has no plans to push for the Czechs to get out of the EU, but he has entertained the idea of allowing parliament to vote on whether there shold be a referendum law.
Zeman, a self-described Euro-federalist who is strongly opposed to EU policies such as migration quotas and sanctions directed at Russia, has said he remains in favour of staying in the EU but thinks the decision should be put to Czech voters. The SPD’s latest position is that they are not currently pushing for a referendum on a Czexit, but that they want a law making one possible to be introduced.
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