2018 Presidential Candidates Weigh in on European Union

Prague, Dec 2 (CTK) – Most presidential contenders want the Czech Republic to stay in the EU, some want it to join the EU’s further integration and some wish the EU to undergo changes, they told CTK, with current President Milos Zeman being the only of the nine bidders to leave CTK’s question unanswered.


The two main rivals of Zeman, entrepreneur and lyricist Michal Horacek and former Science Academy head Jiri Drahos, spoke clearly for Prague’s remaining in the EU.


“I find the departure variant unimaginable. It would mean swapping our own safety and prosperity for isolation,” Drahos said.


On the contrary, the Czech Republic should belong to the main integration stream and submit its own proposals and active criticism to help remove the EU’s shortcomings, Drahos said.


Horacek said as a patriot, he wants the Czech Republic’s firm and self-confident partnership with the other EU members.


That is why he resolutely opposes the idea of “Czexit” and, on the contrary, he demands the country’s joining of the main integration stream.


“I want our national pride to lean on successes we would reach within the group of the best-faring [countries],” Horacek told CTK.


Another candidate, former Civic Democrat (ODS) PM Mirek Topolanek, said the Czech Republic should remain in the EU, be toughly defending its national interests and seeking allied minorities to block proposals and allied majorities to promote proposals in accordance with its interests.


Prague should do so “without hysteria, in a tough and a matter-of-fact way,” Topolanek said.


The Reasonable party’s chairman Petr Hannig wants the EU to return to the stage preceding the Lisbon Treaty and its members to be granted the right of veto, otherwise he would push for a referendum on the Czech departure from the EU.


Jiri Hynek, head of the Czech defence and security industry association, said the Czech Republic should mainly be capable of telling the EU what its national interests are, and defending these interests.


The Czech Republic must preserve its sovereignty and clearly communicate with its partners. “It should not say something at home and something else in the EU. This is confusing for partners and it cannot benefit our country,” Hynek said.


Former ambassador to France Pavel Fischer mentioned the British developments since the Brexit decision and said he considers even the admission of a debate on Czexit an imprudent gamble.


He said the Czechs should actively join the efforts for a EU reform, which the EU urgently needs.


Physician Marek Hilser said Czech departure from the EU would cut the country’s natural economic and cultural ties and thereby “our voluntary economic, cultural and moral suicide.” The country would fare badly afterwards, he said.


Former Skoda Auto company chief Vratislav Kulhanek said, alluding to Czech EU membership, that if someone is a member of a group, they cannot plan to play the second league. “As a lifelong sports fan, I consider this illogical and meaningless,” Kulhanek said.


Zeman, who has not answered CTK’s question, repeatedly presented himself as the EU’s supporter in the past. After his presidential inauguration in 2013, he had the EU flag hoisted at Prague Castle, the presidential seat. Of late, he has often criticised the EU, for bureaucratic directives, for example.


Zeman previously said he is for the Czechs to decide on their staying in the EU in a referendum, in which he would personally support the country’s EU membership.