Czech people's party lands in hot water over anti-immigration line
The Czech Christian Democrats’ campaign for the EU elections got off to a rocky start earlier this month after it included a controversial line about immigration in its party programme.
The centre-right party (KDU-CSL), pro-Europeans and part of the governing coalition, presented its programme for the elections with a traditional agenda: united Europe, social-market economy, care for families.
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But it was the very last sentence of the short manifesto that brought the party into the spotlight.
It focused on immigration, a hot potato theme that features in the domestic campaigns of many of the member states ahead of the May EU vote.
“We don’t want Europe full of inadaptable immigrants who burn cars on the city outskirts, deal drugs and bring radical Islamism with them,” the programme read.
The line made it to Facebook where most users of the social network thought it came from the far-right anti-immigrant Usvit (the Dawn) party.
When it became clear the sentence was part of the Christians democrats’ programme, mainstream media took up the issue.
When confronted with the text, Pavel Svoboda, heading the euro-deputy list for the KDU-CSL, said it had been “taken out of context”.
However, there was no other context except that lone sentence. In addition, there is no domestic debate on radical Islamism. There are very few Muslims in the Czech Republic - the 10-million strong country has just one mosque.
The party then explained that its European programme was “mistakenly published” on its website in its “working version”. In the end, the party said the topic was formulated in a very “unlucky way” and the sentence was deleted from the programme.
Svoboda maintains the KDU-CSL wanted to present its migration strategy in a “constructive and broader European” context but it was all “misunderstood”.
He denied that the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the Czech Republic – from which Usvit is largely benefitting – played a role in how the vexed sentenced was formulated.
Around the same time as the controversy was playing out, a major polling agency unveiled a survey showing that the majority of Czechs thinks there are “too many” foreigners in the country.
This is despite the fact that the Czech Republic is one of the most ethnically homogenous states in Europe with fewer than 4 percent of the population being non-Czechs.