Pubblicato in: Devoluzione socialismo, Unione Europea

Repubblica Ceka. Forse referendum se lasciare l’Unione Europea. – Handelsblatt.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2018-03-28.

Repubblica Ceka 001

Se è vero che la libertà la si conquista con il sangue, è altrettanto vero che con il sangue la si mantiene.

Ecco perché la domanda che si pone Mr Clemens Fuest, presidente dell’Ifo, ha una unica risposta:

«Are you ready to risk your very good economic prospects for more independence?»

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Domanda invero alquanto strana dal momento che i ceki sono i discenti di coloro che fecero la Primavera di Praga.

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Poi, cerchiamo di essere chiari: perché mai condannare un governo che di fronte a scelte ardue si rimettesse alla volontà popolare indicendo un referendum?

Forse che la Svizzera, nazione tipica per l’esercizio referendario, sia una nazione anti democratica e fascista?

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Il problema non è economico. Il problema è di dignità nazionale e, secondariamente, politico.

In estrema sintesi, l’attuale dirigenza europea constata che la maggioranza sulla quale si fondava si è squagliata come neve al sole. Nel giro di un anno in Francia i socialisti sono crollati dal 61% all’8%, in Germania l’Spd + scesa al 20% – ed ora vale ancor meno, ed in Italia il partito democratico è sceso dal 40.8% delle elezioni europee all’attuale 18.72%. Se è mutata la composizione del Consiglio Europeo, supremo organo di governo dell’Unione, l’anno prossimo le elezioni per il parlamento europeo riserveranno grandi ribaltamenti nella composizione politica di quel consesso.

Mr Juncker e Mr Tusk, e sodali vari, si stanno giocando adesso il tutto per tutto, si veda la nomina illegale di Mr Salmayr, per cercare di coronare il loro sogno politico: gli Stati Uniti di Europa con loro egemoni a vita.

Già: la loro rigidità è stato causa efficiente del Brexit, ed adesso è in atto uno scontro a tutto campo con i paesi del Visegrad e, più generalmente, dell’est europeo.

Questi paesi non intendono rinunciare alla propria sovranità nazionale né farsi governare da delle ngo finanziate con denari stranieri, né tanto meno rinunciare al proprio retaggio religioso, storico, culturale e sociale. Dal loro punto di vista ottima un’Unione Europea economica, benissimo un’Europa di stati, ottima una Unione Europea che dismetta le proprie velleità etiche e morali.

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Noi non siamo e non intendiamo atteggiarci a profeti.

Nessuno può al momento predire quale potrebbe essere il risultato di un simile referendum.

Ribadiamo però con forza che riteniamo onesto e democratico ascoltare e mettere quindi in pratica la volontà popolare.

Non è dato l’essere democratici a geometria variabile, secondo mera convenienza.


Handelsblatt. 2018-03-26. The Czech economy is booming. But politicians are calling for a referendum on leaving the EU anyway. Business interests in the country, including German ones, are starting to fret.

Nearly two years after the Brexit bombshell, another EU member state is considering a stay-or-go referendum. Debate is raging in the Czech Republic over whether to let the people decide on membership of the 28-member European Union via direct democracy. Since every possible departure deserves a name, this one is being dubbed “Czexit.”

The country joined the EU in 2004 after a referendum in which locals voted 77 percent in favor. But there’s never been much enthusiasm for the EU from the country’s recent leadership. The country’s president, Milos Zeman, who is close to Russia, and his eurosceptic predecessor Vaclav Klaus have both talked down membership of the bloc. Mr. Zeman, who actually supported the Czech Republic’s entry to the EU, now says he is sympathetic to a referendum.

The party that has been ruling the country since October’s elections, Action for Dissatisfied Citizens, or ANO, has not given the official go-ahead for any such referendum. But the party’s leader, populist multimillionaire Andrej Babis, has also been critical of the EU.

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“Are you ready to risk your very good economic prospects for more independence?”

Clemens Fuest, president, Ifo economic research institute

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There are a number of other political heavyweights lending their voices to the cause. The Communist Party, ruler of the country before its democratic revolution in 1989, also favors a referendum. So does Tomio Okamura, the Czech-Japanese businessman who founded and leads the radical right-wing party, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD).

Mr. Babis’ current hold on power is precarious: ANO, founded in 2011, has no majority in parliament and although the party is most likely to team up with the communists or the Czech social democrats, there have also been talks with the extremely anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy party. Whoever ends up agreeing with ANO will surely influence whether a Czexit referendum goes ahead, or not.

All of this is happening despite the fact that the Czech Republic possibly benefits more than almost any other country from the EU’s single market. Between 2004 and 2017, gross national income, or GNI, at constant prices grew by 37 percent according to the Brussels-based economics think tank Bruegel. Across the whole of central and eastern Europe, per capita GDP grew by 52 percent between 2000 and 2007, on average.

“Most likely, EU membership played a strong role in these huge GNI growth rates,” Bruegel senior fellow, Zsolt Darvas, wrote. “By improving market institutions and the protection of property rights; by attracting foreign investment that brought new technologies and management skills … and perhaps the inflow of EU funds also supported the development of key infrastructure and competitiveness.”

There has also been a steady stream of German investment. Skoda, a Volkswagen subsidiary located close to Prague, is the largest industrial employer in the country. And in fact, the Czech Republic continues to bloom, with GDP growth at 4.5 percent and the lowest unemployment rate in Europe – so much so, that business has been calling for immigration to fill gaps.

All of which is why the prospect of any kind of Czexit vote is creating considerable anxiety in the business community. “People here have to realize that such very positive economic development will not continue if the country leaves the EU,” Clemens Fuest, head of the prestigious German economic research institute, Ifo, said while visiting Prague. “The question for the Czech people is this: Are you ready to risk your very good economic prospects for more independence?”

Business leaders are also sounding the alarm. “We do not view a Czexit as a viable possibility for improving the existing conditions,” said Milan Slachta, who was appointed CEO of German car supplier Bosch’s Czech subsidiary last year.

“None of the initiators of the debate have so far clearly stated what a Czexit would mean for the country, in economic, social or international terms,” noted Jörg Mathew, president of the Czech-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce and CFO of the Czech operations of the German construction company, Hochtief.

In fact, according to a survey of 150 companies in the country by the Czech-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, 78 percent are worried about a possible departure from the EU. If it happened, 28 percent said they would consider changing location.


Emerging Europe. 2018-03-26. Euroscepticism is on the Rise in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has a long tradition of public euroscepticism, well documented by the pre- and post-accession Eurobarometer opinion polls which rank it among the countries with the lowest support for EU membership in central and eastern Europe. Even before accession to the EU, Czech politics featured a mainstream party with a eurosceptic stance, the Civic Democrats, led by Václav Klaus who later became the president of the country. The ‘return to Europe’ nevertheless remained the main foreign policy goal of the Czech Republic and its desire to become member of the EU (and NATO) was stronger than public and party-based forces which took a pessimistic stance towards further western European integration.

After accession, Czech public support for the EU increased, and mostly followed trends in economic development on the domestic as well as European stage, including the EU’s own economic and financial crises. Even the euroscepticism of the Civic Democrats has been muted compared to the pre-accession period, while long-term opponents of European integration such as the Communist Party have been irrelevant in setting Czech foreign policy. Moreover, the first decade of Czech membership has never seen outright demands for exiting the EU regardless of the current levels of euroscepticism. During recent years, however, eurosceptic forces has grown both at public and party level and raised historically unprecedented demands for holding a referendum about Czech membership of the EU.

So what has happened in the meantime? Is Czech euroscepticism on the rise?

There are a number of factors behind the revival of Czech euroscepticism to previously unseen heights. First, the trend of rising euroscepticism is connected to wider phenomena of dissatisfaction with how the mainstream political parties handle domestic and – especially – EU politics. Regardless of the specific composition of the governing coalition, each government has pursued a rather similar approach when it comes to EU policies and politics. On the domestic front, ‘Brussels’ represented a scapegoat for any unpopular decision, while at the EU level Czech governments pursued a passive and vision-free policy which only became offensively reactive if unfavourable proposals were adopted. In other words, credit for any popular policies was claimed by Czech governments, while the blame for unpopular policies was shifted to Brussels.

Laying the foundations

In doing this, successive Czech governments laid the foundations for the future escalation of euroscepticism. Such fertile land has not remained unploughed by political competitors. New parties have been established based on more or less pessimistic views. The ANO party, led by political entrepreneur Andrej Babiš, began to run on the basis of a pro-EU programme. Being ideologically unanchored, however, the ANO party soon derailed from its pro-EU direction. Sensing the dissatisfaction of people with the EU, its main leaders started to use eurosceptic discourse extensively. At the end of its first term of office in the government coalition, the party was dumped by two of its MEPs who were no longer able to identify with the party’s shift away from a pro-EU position and towards that of President Zeman, who openly maintains that people should be given the opportunity to vote about EU membership in a referendum.

Tomio Okamura’s Dawn of Direct Democracy (later dissolved and continued de facto as Freedom and Direct Democracy) has been openly eurosceptic since its inception. The success of the party in October 2017’s general election, and its current strong emphasis on holding a referendum regarding Czech EU membership is nevertheless connected to the second reason behind the revival of Czech euroscepticism.

The migration and refugee crisis of 2015, and the EU’s response to it, provided more fertile ground for the intensification of Czech euroscepticism. The relocation mechanisms (the so-called refugee quotas) have been a hot topic of each election held in the Czech Republic since 2015, namely the regional election of 2016, the general election of 2017, and the presidential election of 2018. Although all Czech parties rejected the ‘quotas’, only Freedom and Direct Democracy (in the general election) and Miloš Zeman in the presidential election were able to derive benefits from their Eurosceptic, anti-quota discourse. It is likely that other parties lacked credibility due to their almost permanent presence in the various coalition governments which have been responsible for Czech EU policy since the accession.

Having said this, the situation in the Czech Republic was not markedly different from the situation in Slovakia.

Why then is euroscepticism lower in Slovakia, where people accept the prime minister’s desire to be a core EU member, including membership in the Eurozone? The answer is related to a third reason behind Czech euroscepticism. The Czech Republic has history of omnipresent eurosceptic leaders going back to the 1990s with the Civic Democrats and the then prime minister Václav Klaus in particular. A year before Czech accession to the EU, Mr Klaus became President. While the presidency in the Czech Republic is mainly a ceremonial position, his influence on society rested in his strongly eurosceptic discourse and even some political decisions such as refusing to sign the Lisbon Treaty until the Czech Republic had been given an opt out from the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. (Mr Klaus believed that the charter could lead to the revocation of the Beneš decrees).

Flying the flag

Miloš Zeman became president when the second term of Václav Klaus came to an end. While he has proclaimed himself a persuaded Euro-federalist and even hung the EU flag at the Prague Castle – something Václav Klaus refused to do – his actions and discourse remained deeply eurosceptic, potentially reflecting the opinion of his core voters in rural and remote areas. The contemporary phenomena behind the revival of Czech euroscepticism, namely dissatisfaction of the political mainstream handling of EU politics and related rise of new eurosceptic parties, can build upon firm foundation built by major political leaders of past and present.

Now, is the Czech Republic heading towards a Czexit referendum? Not quite. The Czech constitutional and legal framework lacks any provision for holding a general referendum. The only referendum so far on Czech accession to the EU was held on the basis of a specifically adopted constitutional law. The main battle of today when it comes to Czexit is about the adoption of a general referendum constitutional bill. In theory, parties supporting the adoption of such a bill (ANO, SPD, Pirates and Communists) have a constitutional majority in the lower chamber but lack it in the upper house. The results of upper house election in October 2018 will hence be critical.

As theory is grey and green is the tree of life, the proponents of the referendum bill in the lower house significantly differ on whether EU membership can be the subject of a referendum. While the Pirates, SPD and Communists strongly advocate this option, ANO rejects it. The reason is simple. While Andrej Babiš ‘responds to the will of the people’ when it comes to adapting his discourse to the general anti-EU mood among Czech citizens, one of his darkest (business) nightmares is a Czech Republic outside the EU. The battle is thus not over. Even if a pro-referendum bill gets a constitutional majority this October, the real debate will be about the details, such as whether the membership of international organisations can be the subject of a referendum, the number of citizens’ signatures required to call a referendum, and the turnout and majority thresholds needed to make referendum valid and binding.

Czexit will not happen overnight, but the conditions have never been as favourable before. If it indeed happens, its impact on this medium-sized country surrounded by EU member states will nevertheless far exceed even the worst-case scenario Britain is currently looking at.

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