Friday

15th Nov 2019

Czech election stalemate on joining euro

  • Andrej Babis is the Czech Republic's second-richest man and likely next prime minister - but wants to keep his millions in korunas, not euros.

Jean-Claude Juncker is likely to be disappointed by the Czech elections next week.

Last month, in his state of the Union speech, the European Commission president said that he hoped that all EU member states - except those with an opt-out - would soon adopt the euro.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The Czech Republic, however, seems to have no intention to do so.

As eurozone membership has become one of the campaign hot topics ahead of the legislative election, on 20 and 21 October, the majority of political parties are excluding such a move in the foreseeable future.

The frontrunner to become the next prime minister is Andrej Babis, a former finance minister and the second-richest person in the country.

Babis, whose Association of Dissatisfied Citizens movement (ANO, a word that means Yes in Czech) is a member of the liberal Alde group in the European Parliament, used to be in favour of the EU common currency.

 But now he stresses that the Czech Republic should keep its koruna.

"We don't want the euro here. Everybody knows it's bankrupt," he said in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency. "I don't want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with."

"The main reason is how unpopular eurozone membership has become in the Czech Republic," Vit Dostal, research director at AMO, a think tank, told EUobserver.

Three-to-one against

According to a survey by the CVVM agency, 72 percent of Czechs are against the adoption of the euro.

But Babis' opposition to the euro is not definitive, Dita Charanzova, an influential MEP for ANO, told EUobserver.

The party's programme says that the Czech Republic "will not adopt euro if the eurozone does not go through significant reforms," she pointed out.

She however admitted that "inside the party, we have not discussed what those reforms should be."

She added that the "problem" of Czech politicians is that they are "not able to define and defend our views and interests in the EU. This has to change regardless of whether we are members of the eurozone or not."

The social democrats, who lead the government in which Babis' ANO have been participationg since early 2014, formally support euro membership, but do not seem to want to establish a firm course towards it.

Recently, the party has started to stress that Czech entry into the eurozone would be desirable only after the gap between Czech and Western wages became smaller.

Some other mainstream parties either share this reluctance, or are implacably opposed to euro-adoption.

The right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which has been in government for the majority of the period since 1989, even wants to negotiate a Czech opt-out from the single currency.

"For now, the EU says that it's our own choice if we adopt the euro or not. But this can change and it is entirely possible that the EU might want to force us to enter the eurozone," claims Jan Zahradil, an ODS MEP. His party is a member of the conservative European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.

According to all the opinion polls, ANO is expected to win the upcoming elections but fall short of overall majority in parliament, after a campaign marked by scandals involving Babis.

On 9 October, Babis was formally charged with fraud in a case involving a €2-million subsidy a decade ago. He denies all charges and claims that the case against him is politically-motivated.

Last month, the Czech parliament voted to lift his immunity. But his likely reelection as MP would renew his immunity. Parliament would then have to vote again to lift it to allow the prosecution to go ahead.

Several Czech political parties have said they will not enter any government of which Babis would be a member.

Political analysts say the margin of the expected ANO victory in the election will be an important factor in the horse-trading that is to be expected after the vote.

Unity … against refugee relocation

Another main point in Babis' programme is the refusal to accept refugees in the Czech Republic.

The issue has been a stronger consensus between the main political parties than the opposition to euro membership.

Babis has repeatedly stressed that he is not only against mandatory relocation of asylum seekers, but that he does not want to accept any refugees at all. He claims that all people fleeing to Europe are economic migrants.

Charanzova insisted that Babis is not a eurosceptic, despite this rhetoric.

"In our programme for elections, that has been approved by Andrej Babis, we don't say that the Czech Republic should never adopt the euro or that it should not accept any refugees," she said.

Anti-EU rhetoric props up Czech election race

The recent decision to stop taking asylum seekers is the latest sign of growing euroscepticism ahead of elections in October, with billionaire Andrej Babis as favourite.

Analysis

Juncker's euro-push could risk unity, warns eastern flank

The EU Commission chief hopes that as Emmanuel Macron pushes for euro area countries to integrate further creating a multi-speed Europe, central European members will be more inclined to join the single currency. Are they?

Opinion

Austria and Czech elections will change Visegrad dynamics

With new leaders Sebastian Kurz and Andrej Babis in the region, the 'Visegrad Group' of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland will have to adapt its policies towards the EU or lose influence.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us