The Czech EU Presidency is Coming: The Government Starts a Media Campaign

The CR is going to take over the EU presidency for the first six months of next year. The preparations are under way, of course. It costs some money: a 3 billion crowns estimate. There are reasons for optimism: we will have a chance to show off a bit, to make our name heard in the world, and maybe John McCain will stop calling us “Czechoslovakia”. But with the unstable government coalition, the inter-party struggles and a still unclear agenda, it may also be a failure. Not that it should bring some disgraceful deeds, no, I mean it can result in a mediocre administrative sleeper. Or worse, should our president find it appropriate to voice some of his ideas concerning the EU during a summit, however unlikely it may seem, there could be even some fun. The EU delegates would, for example, surely welcome his comparison of the Union to the RVHP. That was an economic union between East European Communist states during the Cold War, established in order to take resources from the stronger communist states and place them to the weak ones so that the whole bloc wouldn´t fall apart.

There is a campaign going on. It consists chiefly of a TV spot, which features various well-known Czech faces, playing around with cubes of sugar. The cubes of sugar are supposedly a Czech invention. The climax is a slogan, which would translate something like “We´ll sweeten it for Europe”. The Czech idiom of sweetening something for somebody has a negative connotation, but it is possible that the authors are just being playful. They say the goal is to make Czech people care about the EU presidency and to take a more relaxed approach to the whole EU project.

There are good reasons for such an ambition. Czechs are generally not very happy about the Union. Czech politicians have so far been unable to make use of the large EU funds for development projects. Lots of money did, or is about to, disappear in vain. The Euro, which is eagerly awaited by Czech exporters, is not yet in sight and the current government seems reluctant to make a decisive move towards it. But some prices have been rising to the Euro level anyway- cigarettes, for example. And our representatives failed to negotiate suitable quotas for production of sugar and our sugar industry, traditionally a strong one, is now in ruins thanks to the very harsh quota we received. The producers of sugar are forbidden even to satisfy the Czech market: so instead of exporting, we must import. Is the sugar cube such a well- chosen object for a pro- EU campaign?

There is still some sense of the project´s positive aspects: people enjoy how easy it is to travel. And the closer ties between European countries are not generally seen as a bad idea. Free trade, the chief idea of the EU, is also seen as mostly positive, but there are reservations.

The EU trade is not free enough for some and too free for others. Too state- regulated for orthodox (neo)liberals, too in international for nationalists. With the financial crisis, the unsettled political climate and half- convinced public, the presidency will be a quite a job.

© 2008 |