Czech Republic: A desire to accommodate British demands, but without treaty changes

How do various members of the EU view UK´s ‪‎renegotiation‬? Director of Europeum Vladimír Bartovic explains the Czech point of view on the LSE blog.

Britain’s attempt to renegotiate its EU membership has received little political and public attention in the Czech Republic. As in other Central European states, debate has been dominated by the ongoing migration crisis and the fight against the EU’s resettlement quotas. So far no Czech political leader has commented on the British demands and the Czech government has not adopted any position for the negotiations.

It is, however, clear that the Czech Republic strongly supports keeping the UK inside the EU. Britain has long been considered a natural ally in several policy areas. It strongly supports the single market, liberalisation of trade, a strong transatlantic partnership and the positions of both countries on other foreign policy issues are traditionally very similar. It is a shared opinion amongst Czech political leaders that a Brexit would harm the EU as well as Czech interests.

Hence we can expect that the Czech Republic will pursue solutions that will accommodate British demands. However, this will need to be achieved without comprising the basic foundations of the European integration project. Czechs will definitely support British demands for enhancing the single market, especially in the area of services, the digital market, and energy, as these are also priorities for the Czech government. The Czech Republic has always promoted elimination of trade barriers, thus the government will support British any demands for a quick completion of trade deals with the US and other big economies.

The Czech government is hesitant to support British demands that would require change of the EU’s treaty. The Czech government’s recently adopted EU strategy took a negative view towards treaty changes. In line with this position, the country is unlikely to support a British opt–out from “ever closer union” if this is pursued as a treaty change. Support for such a British opt–out would undermine long-term Czech efforts to preserve and foster the EU’s unity.

Similarly, like most of the other EU countries, and especially those who joined the EU in the last decade, the country will be strongly against any measures that would discriminate against citizens of other EU member states. The EU’s four freedoms, and especially the freedom of movement of people, are considered untouchable. This of course doesn’t mean that the Czech Government is opposed to debate on how to tackle abuses of this freedom. Taking into consideration the relatively small number of Czechs living and working in the UK (around 40,000), the government will probably leave the fight for freedom of movement of people to member states such as Poland who have more of an interest in this area.

On the other hand, we can expect the Czech Republic to support a greater say for national parliaments in EU decision-making, including the introduction of the so-called green card system. Again, however, this would ideally happen without treaty changes. The Czech government also shares British concerns that the Economic and Monetary Union policies that effect all the EU Member States should be debated in the EU-28 format.

 

Text has been originaly published on LSE blog, where you can also find views of other EU member states.

#brexit #Great Britain #Cameron

Expertise: EU institutional issues, Economic and Monetary Union, € and European budget, Brexit, EU foreign policy, EU enlargement with the focus on Western Balkans, Slovak foreign and domestic policy and economic issues

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