Commentary European issues

Rejecting the EU does not mean rejecting Europe

A survey by Behavio Labs, STEM and the Europeum Institute of European Policy takes a detailed look at the relationship of Czechs to the European Union.

The survey focused on respondents' emotions and, according to researchers, reflects their true attitudes generally known as very Eurosceptic.

Regarding Euroscepticism, Czechs are even ahead of the Greeks or Britons before Brexit. For half of the Czechs, the first emotion in connection with the European Union is doubt. Conversely, in the share of those who recall hope or certainty in connection with the EU, the Czech Republic ranks in last place.

“In Czech political culture there is a perception that if something goes wrong, it is the EU that is responsible for it, but if something goes well, it is the merit of a particular politician. To some extent, it is similar everywhere in Europe, but it is stronger in our country,” explained Vít Havelka from the Europeum Institute.

However, a more detailed look at Czech Euroscepticism reveals that the rejection of the European Union does not mean the refusal of Europe itself. Europe evokes unequivocally positive emotions with the Czechs. They see Europe as a home and a cultural and historical concept linking it with heritage or pride in living in a safe and relatively prosperous place.

In contrast, most people have a very vague picture of the EU and mostly remember negative cases such as an affair with rum or spreadable butter. The benefits, on the other hand, are abstract and the politicians do not succeed in transforming them into specific stories.

The study also points out that only about a tenth of Czechs demands immediate withdrawal from the European Union. However, there is a similarly small group of those who like the EU in its current form. An overwhelming majority - eighty percent - would like to reform the Union, and only in the event of failure, a minority of them would consider leaving. So the Czech Euroscepticism hides something a little bit different: the Czechs are Euroreformers rather than Eurosceptics.

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