• Prague: Rusnok's government must ask the Czech parliament for a vote of confidence (Photo: pavelm)

New Czech government could herald U-turn on EU policy

24.07.13 @ 07:47

  1. By Ondrej Houska

PRAGUE - The new Czech government sworn in earlier this month could alter the country's position on several EU topics.

In recent years, the Czech republic has been an ally of the United Kingdom in several high-profile political punch-ups in Brussels.

For one, its previous government refused to join the "fiscal compact" on EU budget discipline.

The centre-right former PM, Petr Necas, was also opposed to taking the country into the euro and opposed to joining the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) on EU banks.

We all know what the former president, Vaclav Klaus, thought about the EU.

But the new centre-left government of PM Jiri Rusnok is very close to the country's new President, Milos Zeman, who advocates swift euro-adoption.

Rusnok's cabinet also contains several pro-EU ministers, at least when measured by Czech standards.

On top of this, Rusnok worked for the Dutch bank ING for several years, making him more sympathetic to the SSM.

A senior Czech official who knows him personally told this website: "He knows, that the integration of financial markets and banking is a reality in Europe."

The official gave similar opinion about the new finance minister, Jan Fischer.

Fischer headed the Czech caretaker government during the second half of the Czech EU presidency in 2009. Afterwards, he worked as the vice-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

For its part, Vit Dostal, from the Czech think tank Association for International Affairs, agrees the new government will not see European issues from an ideological perspective, as was, in his opinion, often the case with the previous administration.

Dostal also highlighted the pro-EU credentials of the new foreign minister, Jan Kohout.

Kohout was the Czech ambassador to the EU and later served as a foreign minister in Fischer's technocratic government.

However, Dostal is sceptical the new government can achieve anything substantial in practice.

"They might not get the possibility to make their mark, as the EU will not be deciding on anything important until the formation of the new government in Germany after the [german] elections [in September]," he told this website.

Meanwhile, Rusnok's government must ask the Czech parliament for a vote of confidence in one month or so from now.

At this point in time, opposition parties are unwilling to give their support.

But the Czech political scene is full of speculation that President Zeman will find a way to make sure the new government stays in office even if loses the potential no-confidence vote.

Some analysts and politicians even predict Rusnok will remain PM until the next elections, which must be held by mid-2014.

Rusnok is thought to have already asked for a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.

It might be interesting for the top EU official to meet a Prime Minister who has not yet been endorsed by his own parliament.