EU leaders are meeting in Sibiu, Romania on Thursday for a summit that was originally intended to affirm post-Brexit unity and chart a course for future development. Although member states are expected to adopt a declaration of “unity and confidence in the future”, the summit is overshadowed by uncertainty regarding the outcome of European elections, due later this month, and the many question marks surrounding Brexit.
How have Czech perceptions of the EU changed since the country joined the bloc on May 1, 2004? Has the Brexit mess impacted discussion of a potential Czech departure from the EU? Will the country ever adopt the Euro? And what should we be looking out for in the European Parliament elections in a few weeks’ time? These were just some of the issues Ian Willoughby discussed in Olomouc recently with a number of experts: sociologist Jan Hartl of the STEM polling agency; Karel Barták, a former CTK journalist who was a Brussels insider during a lengthy
Britain’s departure from the EU will boost the position of France and
Germany, according to Czech political scientists approached by the CTK news
Petr Kaniok from Masaryk University in Brno said Great Britain had slowed the pace of European integration, acting as a break to federalist tendencies within the EU.
Political analyst Kryštof Kruliš agrees, saying Brexit will open the way for France to push through its federalist vision faster and more effectively.
In this respect the Czech Republic is seen as losing an important ally in the EU.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) met his
British counterpart Jeremy Hunt in London on Wednesday to discuss bilateral
relations and the status of Czechs living in the UK following Brexit.
Following the meeting, Minister Petříček tweeted, “Britain is currently our fifth largest export market and among the leading investors in the Czech Republic. We have great potential to strengthen cooperation in the areas of artificial intelligence, cyber security, renewables and nanotechnology.”
In a gesture meant to show good relations will continue, Petříček and Hunt exchanged national football jerseys with their respective surnames on them.
On Tuesday, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened a new Czech Consulate General in Manchester primarily to bring consular services to Czechs living in the northern UK.
The Czech Republic is ready to agree with the United Kingdom’s request to
extend the Brexit deadline of March 29 at the EU Council meeting in
Brussels on Thursday.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said at Wednesday’s European Affairs Committee meeting in Prague the deadline sought would likely extend to June 30. He said he could not imagine any EU Member State would seek to block the summit meeting, which would lead to a no-deal Brexit.
A June 30 deadline would means that the UK would not take part in the European Parliament elections.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, opened a new
Czech Consulate General in the UK city of Manchester on Tuesday. It is the
Czech Republic’s second diplomatic mission in the UK after its embassy in
London and is intended to serve people living in the north of England,
Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mr. Petříček said that the Consulate General would help Czech firms to continue operating in the UK after the country leaves the EU. He said the Czech Republic wished to maintain good relations with Great Britain following Brexit, adding that his government was interested in fostering cooperation in the field of innovation with UK partners.
An estimated 100,000 Czechs are resident in Great Britain.
Following the British Parliament's decision to ask the European Union
to prolong the Brexit negotiations, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said
that he would support such an extension after a meeting with Rumanian Prime
Minister Viorica Dăncilă.
Mr. Babiš has previously publicly said that he hopes Britain will hold a second referendum, saying that it would be the best outcome for Czech interests. He said the second best option would be if the deal Theresa May has already negotiated with the EU were passed.
While the British Parliament voted to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline which would otherwise run-out on March 29th, it needs the European Union to agree. That means getting approval from the other 27 member states.
President Miloš Zeman on Thursday signed into law a bill which would
protect the rights of the several thousand British nationals living and
working in the Czech Republic in the event that the Great Britain leaves
the EU with no deal.
The bill will ensure that British nationals will be guaranteed the same treatment as all EU citizens up until the end of 2020. The areas covered by the bill include for example acquiring Czech citizenship, permanent residence and pension insurance.
The Senate has passed a bill proposed by the government that seeks to
protect the rights of British citizens in the country in case of a no-deal
Brexit. The legislation seeks to create an ‘intermediate period’
lasting until the end of 2020 during which British nationals will retain
the same rights as EU citizens. The bill is now expected to be signed by
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Interior there are currently around 8,000 British citizens living in the Czech Republic, 5,000 of whom are employed.
Czech companies doing business with British firm have already been impacted
by the UK’s impending exit from the European Union.
A poll by Bibby Financial Services and the British Chamber of Commerce found more than a quarter (28 percent) of Czech firms have noted a decrease in orders or revenue, which they blame on Brexit.
About 40 percent said they had felt an indirect influence, for example, in the form of additional administrative costs or modifications to existing terms and conditions.
However, only a quarter of Czech firms surveyed said they worry that their British business partners will be unable to pay outstanding invoices.