23rd Oct 2016


Fear-mongering and bad jokes mark Czech EU elections

  • "Don't bother with Europe" says TOP 09 poster (ironically) (Photo: TOP 09)

Czech people are commemorating the 10-year anniversary of their smooth accession to the EU, but if a stranger landed in the country now they could be forgiven for believing the past decade has been a national disaster.

From left to right, political parties want to protect the people from Europe. That is the common theme for major political parties as they seek to win over voters for the EU election later this month – and, ironically, to secure well-paid jobs for their candidates in Brussels at the same time.

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  • "No jobs for immigrants", says Usvit's poster (Photo: Katerina Safarikova)

Even the party that tabled the original bid for EU membership, the right-wing civic democrats (ODS), have made their eurosceptic coming-out. And now, the elections scene is all about No to the euro, despite the fact the adoption of the single currency is not actually on the government's current agenda.

The ODS has launched a petition for keeping the Czech koruna for good, and have gathered some 50,000 signatures.

Self-proclaimed pro-Europeans, the Christian Democrats, have opted for inward-looking protection for the first time in their European campaigns.

"We protect Czech interests", read their billboards, although the interests have not been specified. Party insiders admit there was a polemic about the message, dubbed too fearful, unclear, and cliched by some party members, but an understanding has prevailed that only by "protecting them" is it possible to win Czech voters' hearts.

Movement ANO 2011, the second largest party at national level, is polling to win the EU vote with some 25-30 percent. Its messages vary, but the European 'threat' features here as well.

"Our farmers deserve more" reads one of the top slogans. The line is at odds with reality in a country in which the agricultural sector counts for some 3 percent of GDP and in which its farmers reach over 90 percent of the income of their Western colleagues, unlike farmers in Poland or the Baltics.

ANO's leader is the ruling coalition's finance minister as well as being a food-production magnate and the single biggest recipient of EU farm subsidies in the country.

Meanwhile, the TOP 09 party of former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg kicked off the European race with a slogan "Don’t bother with Europe".

Since the party is pro-European and Schwarzenberg has been saying the motto's opposite for a long time, it is clearly meant to be humourous. But it's an odd time for this kind of humour when almost everyone is campaigning on a negative note and the EU is highly unpopular.

The less funny, far-right Usvit, meaning "the Dawn", a parliamentary party, is organising a petition – together with some members of the EFD group – that calls for the EU to tighten its immigration policy.

Their European slogan reads "We don't want unadaptable foreigners and religious fanatics".

Marketing people have labelled the overall Czech campaign as dull, or unclear at best and full of fear-mongering at worst.

Still, the prize for vaguest wording ought to go to the Czech left.

The ruling social democrats have come up with "New jobs!" and the cloudy appeal "together against tax frauds!".

The communists merely say: "We want Europe for people."

Well, yes.

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MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

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