3rd Oct 2022


Where is the Czech Republic's Mr EU?

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT Several months have passed since the Czechs elected their new government. After a prolonged hiatus of unstable coalitions, the country appears to many outside to finally boast a government with a substantial enough majority in the parliament to push through the agenda it pleases.

But looking under the hood, we see that despite a string of ambitious goals, the government is stuck in internal squabbles that are watering down its reform agenda. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of foreign policy where the government lacks any semblance of resolve and long-term vision. Most notably, there is a complete absence of any substantial debate on the future course of Czech EU Policy. Should this policy of woeful neglect continue, the standing of the Czech Republic in the EU will be further undermined.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The current Czech government is a strange amalgam of two conservative parties (ODS and TOP09) and a centre-left party (VV) whose political platform smacks of outright populism. In spite of its proclamations to the contrary, the conservative ODS, who wields the strongest influence in the coalition, exhibits a strange love-hate relationship with the EU. After all, its founding father was none other one of the continent's most famous eurosceptics, President Vaclav Klaus. Although the other two coalition members speak positively of the country's EU membership, they have by and large failed to engage the government in any serious EU debate.

A good case in point is the ongoing dispute inside the coalition over whether the government should have a senior official in charge of EU affairs. Driven by a slash-and-burn logic to reduce the country's deficit, the government first promised to scrap the position of a Mr EU, only later to start dragging its feet. Up until the last elections, EU policies were co-ordinated by a deputy prime minister for EU affairs. However, at the moment, the two conservative parties are at loggerheads over Mr EU: the former wants to nominate its own person to the job while the latter opposes it, claiming it would violate previous agreement to trim the country's bureaucracy. What is really behind this, however, is not an ideological debate over the place of the Czech Republic within the EU but the raging power struggle inside the coalition between the two parties. The ODS wants to shore up its influence in the government while TOP09, whose leader is foreign minister, does not want its coalition partner to strengthen its position. That said, it seems to be completely lost on the government that there is a genuine need to put in motion a long-term EU strategy to include different ministers and government agencies. Yet the debate is missing and EU policy has become hostage to the vagaries of party bosses.

As mentioned before, there is no long-term vision as to what goals Czech EU policy should pursue. Similarly, the government has not bothered to engage the opposition so far. Even informal meetings to discuss EU affairs take place without opposition representatives. This by no means helps prepare ground for crafting a comprehensive EU policy.

The real danger is two-fold: First, the Czech Republic will be confined to the margins of EU politics should the government decide to focus on domestic issues and ignore foreign policy while finding itself mired in inter-government infighting. Secondly and worse still, such a withdrawal will open the door for Czech President Klaus, who is more than keen to become the sole voice for the Czech Republic in the EU, to become our de facto Mr EU.

The government needs to recognize that not only domestic issues require its immediate attention. The coalition leaders should agree to establish some sort of coordination mechanism for EU policies headed by a senior government official. Ideally, the next Mr. EU should not be an active member of the three coalition members but have enough political weight to moderate conflicting interests inside the government. For that, the government can rely on support from the opposition Social Democrats who are in favour of a more effective EU policy. Also, it is up to both government parties and opposition to once and for all recognise that EU policy offers a key opportunity to forge a culture of bipartisanship.

A greater involvement of the opposition in decision-making with regard to the EU is a must.

Jakub Kulhanek is head of the East European Programme at the Association for International Affairs in the Czech Republic and currently with the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham (UK).


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Czech PM mulls euro referendum

The ruling euro-sceptic ODS party in the Czech Republic wants to push for a referendum on the country's future eurozone accession, claiming that the rules have changed since 2003 when Czechs said yes to the EU and the euro.

EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson's words on refugee protection were welcome. But, worryingly, the commitments made by EU leaders at the forum have not translated into action. There is still time for them to save face — but it's running out.

How US tech giants play EU states off against each other

Some have tried to justify Big Tech's meagre tax payments in EU states with heavier tax burdens by emphasising the fact that these companies create jobs and invest in next-generation technologies. However, their market dominance comes at a steep cost.

Can King Charles III reset the broken Brexit relationship?

The Queen's funeral was an impressive demonstration of solidarity from the EU towards a country that left the Union in 2020, and with whom the EU's relations have never recovered. Can the new King Charles III build bridges to Brussels?

EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson's words on refugee protection were welcome. But, worryingly, the commitments made by EU leaders at the forum have not translated into action. There is still time for them to save face — but it's running out.

News in Brief

  1. Russia halts gas supplies to Italy
  2. Bulgaria risks hung parliament after inconclusive vote
  3. Latvian ruling party wins elections
  4. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  5. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  6. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  7. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  8. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. What Modi and Putin’s ‘unbreakable friendship’ means for the EU
  2. EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges
  3. Cities and regions stand with citizens and SMEs ahead of difficult winter
  4. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  5. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  6. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  7. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  8. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us