At a meeting of Czech ambassadors in Prague on Monday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš stressed the importance of being a reliable and active partner in the EU and NATO. At the same time the head of government defended the country’s stance on migration and its decision not to join the Eurozone in the foreseeable future.
The Czech Republic is firmly committed to EU membership, but will strive to implement much needed reforms within the bloc – that was the gist of the prime minister’s message to the ambassadors present. The head of government said that if there were things that Prague did not like about the functioning of the EU, the solution was to be more active in proposing reforms, rather than talk about leaving.
“Those who speak about the Czech Republic’s departure from the EU, threaten the country’s future. 83 percent of the country’s exports go to EU member states, in the course of its membership the Czech Republic acquired 700 million crowns from EU funds and over that time the country’s GDP rose by 37 percent.”
Mr. Babiš expressed the view that defending the country’s national interests did not mean being anti-European. He said the EU faced many problems – including the burden of Brexit – and said the alliance should primarily focus on its essential role, which is to secure European stability and a smoothly functioning single market. He said the aim to guarantee a free movement of goods, capital, services and labour had not to this day been fully achieved.
As regards adoption of the euro, the prime minister said joining the Eurozone was not on the cards for the time being.
“As I see it, unless the Eurozone undergoes reform, then it is not something we would consider in the immediate future. Having a common currency is fine, but at this point we need to consider what is best for the country’s economic development and the independence of the Czech National Bank.”
The Czech prime minister also defended the country’s stance on migration saying that the country’s refusal to take in migrants was a matter of principle and a signal that taking in more and more migrants was not a workable solution for Europe. He said Prague was helping in the countries of migrant origin and was ready and willing to participate in a solution based on agreements with African states, what he called a “Marshall Plan” for Africa.
On the subject of defence spending, Babiš said that the NATO debate on contributions to the alliance should consider not only individual contributions with regard to a country’s GDP, but also their absolute level.
Under a 2014 agreement reached in Wales, each NATO member state is to earmark at least 2 percent of its GDP for defence. The Czech Republic at present spends 1.1 percent of GDP on defence and aims to reach 2 percent in 2024.