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Former Czech PMs Reflect On Impact of EU Membership After 20 Years

At the moment when it became clear that the Czech Republic would join the European Union, a huge increase was visible in the Czech Republic’s influence and weight in international relations, said former Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla (SOCDEM) yesterday.

Spidla, a former EU Commissioner who was prime minister at the time of the Czech accession to the EU, was speaking in a debate at the conference, held in Prague to mark the 20th anniversary of EU membership.

Another ex-prime minister, Mirek Topolanek (formerly ODS), said he had always regarded EU accession as a means, not an end, which he said was the Czech Republic’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Czech Republic joined the EU on 1 May 2004. Topolanek said he saw the 20 years in the bloc as a period of unfulfilled expectations, but acknowledged that the Czech Republic has absolutely no geopolitical alternative. It is therefore not in the country’s interest for the “eroding project” to disintegrate or fall apart, he said, adding that it is not in the national interest for the Czech Republic to be outside this community.

Topolanek was prime minister during the first Czech EU presidency in 2009, which was marked by the collapse of his cabinet. He said the economic costs of joining the EU were greater than the benefits, but the geopolitical benefits were important.

According to Spidla, NATO’s reliability is strengthened precisely because the Czech Republic is in the EU.

While Topolanek mentioned the extensive bureaucracy in the union, Spidla argued that the EU is in a way the most powerful de-bureaucratisation mechanism in the world.

“Instead of 26 individual legislations that determine how your car should look like, there is one basic directive,” he said. “At the moment when, under the principle of recognition of conformity, it is recognized by you that the thing can go on the market, at that moment it can go to Spain, France, anywhere. If that were not the case, if it were not for the union and its so-called bureaucracy, it would mean that you would have to go through a complicated procedure in each of the countries.”

“Today’s European Union is ruled by elites and corporations elected by no one,” Topolanek said. The Czech Republic, he concluded, must be concerned mainly with whether EU membership leads to the security and economic prosperity of its citizens, and strive for the gap in economic prosperity between countries in the bloc to narrow.

Former Czech PMs Reflect On Impact of EU Membership After 20 Years
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