A decade-long survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations has found a huge asymmetry in the Czech Republic’s integration within EU structures and attitudes of Czechs towards the EU itself. The think-tank warns this could lead to serious problems in the event of a crisis.
In order to keep the multi-national ship united and sailing in one course it is particularly important to maintain strong cohesion within the union.
“Cohesion is the glue that holds Europe together”, in the words of a respected pan-European think tank called the European Council on Foreign Relations, whose experts have been collecting data annually in order to map out this phenomenon.
Peter Janning, the head of its Berlin office explained how it works.
“The EU cohesion monitor is a classic form of desktop research. It is based on existing data that is publicly available and we made a rule that we only use data which is available for all 28 member states. The original aspect of it is that we evaluate structure and cluster our data according to our approach to cohesion, which we define as the willingness to cooperate.”
The study differentiates two kinds of cohesion.
There is structural cohesion, which measures ties between member states through features including policy integration, economic ties and security co-operation.
On the other hand there is individual cohesion consisting of categories such as attitudes, approval and participation in EU elections.
Mr. Janning and his team noticed two countries with an alarming disparity between the two cohesion meters – Hungary and the Czech Republic.
“While their progress on the structural side is as good and strong as other countries in East and Central Europe, their level of individual cohesion is the lowest within the EU. This disparity is not seen anywhere else. We believe it has to do with a disparity between the degree of integration on the macro-level within the EU and what actually arrives in the mind-set of most citizens.”
Compared to 2007, Czechs now have a much lower approval rating of deeper integration policies such as adopting the Euro and developing a common foreign policy.
Expectations and attitudes towards the EU are also somewhat lower.
While it is unlikely to cause trouble in the present phase of economic growth, Mr. Janning warns that a low individual collusion could become a problem in the event of a crisis.
You can find a detailed PDF of the study here: www.ecfr.eu
“Whenever the macro-level cohesion will not deliver, for example when the inflow of resources from the Brussels budget will not continue in the way it has over the past years, or if there is an economic crisis, or political crisis, there will be no buffer in terms of solid micro-level cohesion.
"In our view, individual cohesion has at least the potential to cushion some of the effects that a profound economic crisis could unleash.”