17th Mar 2018


Bye-bye Mr Klaus! Bye-bye euroscepticism?

  • Klaus will reportedly run as an MEP in 2014 (Photo: wikipedia)

For eight years Vaclav Klaus as President of the Czech Republic has been its best known eurosceptic face.

He not only gave EU bureaucrats a hard time by extending almost indefinitely the signature of the Lisbon Treaty, but also succeeded in creating a local anti-European ideology which resonates well in the time of crisis.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

His now famous 2009 speech to the European Parliament is still treated as a eurosceptic manifesto by many.

But the Klaus era is over.

In March, he will step down from office. His successor - elected for the first time in Czech history by direct elections - will certainly not fill Klaus' shoes in terms of European policy.

Jana Bobosikova, the only candidate comparable to Klaus in terms of the radicalism of her rhetoric, received the worst score in the first round.

The only issue that might send shivers down the necks of EU officials is that Klaus is reportedly planning to stand for the European Parliament in 2014.

Does this mean the era of euroscepticism in Czech politics is over, too?

Theoretically, yes.

The two candidates in this weekend's second round run-off - Karel Schwarzenberg and Milos Zeman - share a similar position on EU integration. The 75-year-old Schwarzenberg, a well-respected diplomat with aristocratic, pan-European roots, is one of the very few EU politicians who could actually be called a euro-optimist.

His rival, Socialist Milos Zeman, just seven years younger than Schwarzenberg is cut from the same cloth.

He openly supports EU federalism and further enlargement to the extent he would also like to see Russia, one day, join the EU.

It seems that no matter who wins, champagne corks will pop in Brussels.

But the paradox is that despite the departure of Klaus, Czech euroscepticism might be here to stay.

For one thing, it is the government in the Czech republic which handles foreign policy and the government of Petr Necas, which rejected joining the EU fiscal compact, will not go away after the presidential vote.

Necas is spectacularly unpopular and could well be replaced by the more EU-pragmatic Socialists in 2014.

But even a left-wing, pro-EU government cannot ignore the popular mood.

Czech society is becoming more and more disenchanted with the EU.

According to a 2012 survey, the level of trust in the Czech Republic in European institutions is at its lowest ebb since 1994. In just two years the level dropped from 53 to 37 percent.

Klaus' anti-European rhetoric has borne fruit.

But this is not the main reason for the mistrust.

The root of euroscepticism in the country is the Czechs' deep self-image as a nation created in opposition to treacherous powers.

The main lesson learned from the Czech republic's turbulent past is that small-sized states must protect their sovereignty at all costs.

The euro crisis is also a factor.

Czechs rightly blame EU economic instability for the increasingly sharp downturn in the country.

They fear that the crisis will ruin their car industry, the main pillar of the national economy.

This is also why joining the eurozone is unimaginable.

Czechs have become used to the stable koruna - a constant feature since the interwar period, through German occupation, Communism and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. They simply cannot imagine the introduction of the euro at home.

In a 2011 survey, almost 80 percent of respondents said No to the common currency.

It is significant that among Czech entrepreneurs those who support the euro mostly work for subsidiaries of German companies. The owners of national firms are much less keen.

The end of the Klaus era does hold out the promise of a new dawn in Czech-EU relations.

But for that to happen his successor will have to undertake the great task of rebuilding confidence in Europe.

Will he succeed? Unlikely.

If the Socialists next year form a coalition government with the Communist party, on the model of current local politics, no amount of pro-EU rhetoric will help - the EU itself will hold the Czechs at arms length as too unpredictable and too uncooperative.

The champagne corks in Brussels should for some time stay in place.

The writer is a research fellow at The Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw

Klaus warns euro pact will lead to full political union

Vaclav Klaus, the Czech Republic's famously eurosceptic president renowned across Europe for holding up passage of the Lisbon Treaty for months, has launched an attack against a fresh EU target: the ‘Euro-plus-pact'.

Klaus signature completes EU treaty ratification

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has finally signed the Lisbon Treaty, ending a highly drawn out ratification process that left many wondering whether the document's provisions would ever see the light of day. The treaty is to come into force on 1 December.

Czechs abandon EU fiscal pact, for now

The new EU treaty on fiscal discipline will be signed by 25 instead of 26 member states after the Czech Republic joined the UK in staying out.

Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

Column / Brussels Bytes

EU e-privacy proposal risks breaking 'Internet of Things'

EU policymakers need to clarify that the e-privacy should not apply to most Internet of Things devices. The current proposal require explicit user consent in all cases - which is not practical.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden emerges as possible US-North Korean summit host
  2. Google accused of paying academics backing its policies
  3. New interior minister: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'
  4. Hamburg 'dieselgate' driver wins case to get new VW car
  5. Slovak deputy PM asked to form new government
  6. US, Germany, France condemn 'assault on UK sovereignty'
  7. MEPs accept Amsterdam as seat for EU medicines agency
  8. Auditors: EU farm 'simplification' made subsidies more complex

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Latest News

  1. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  2. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  3. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  4. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant
  5. Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks
  6. Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case
  7. Western allies back UK amid Russian media blitz
  8. Meet the European Parliament's twittersphere

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction