Opinion: Czech State Secretary for European affairs paint ambiguous portrait of the EU

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Photo: © CoE, S. Parmentier

On October 26th 2016, the College had the opportunity to welcome the Czech State secretary for European Affairs, Mr Tomas Prouza, in office since 2014.

By: Elise Cuny

Tomas Prouza’s appearance marked the first official visit by a Czech representative to the College, and served as an occasion to assess and discuss the links between the institution and the Czech Republic, provider of 4 students of the Keynes’ promotion.

With an interesting background – economist by education, journalist and Deputy minister of Finance from 2004 to 2007 by profession, Mr Prouza effectively tackled the main crises faced by the EU in his speech, ambitiously titled “Taking back control of the EU”.

It is not an easy task to tackle the European Union’s issues while promoting a specific member state. Nevertheless, the angle chosen in Mr Prouza’s speech was interesting, focusing notably on the change of public rhetoric in EU’s member states and the link to public opinion. In this regard, he emphasised the harmful consequences of the Dutch referendum on Ukraine, Brexit and of the now-resolved Wallonia disagreement on CETA, for the unity and coherence of the EU. As a synthesis of these troubled times, he expressed one claim: “Our people desperately want to hear that we are in control”. The formula is appealing, but becomes tricky once we try to define who the “we” includes.

Is it the member states, the European Union as a whole or is it a mix involving more interinstitutional components? It seems the answer depends on the situation – and therefore there is no real answer. Mr Prouza appeared both supportive and wary of member states’ actions and national statements. He was frank however, when voicing his opinion on Czech President Milos Zeman’s suggestion to hold a similar referendum on a Czech EU’s exit, which Prouza deemed politically unconscionable.

In response to questions from the students of the College, Mr Prouza expanded on his view on enlargement. He stated that it would be a mistake to abandon this policy, since it had provided beneficial additions to EU in the past. Moreover, the EU’s strategy in the region achieved through alternative arrangements already are reaching their limits.

In many regards, the State secretary’s speech reflected the conclusions of the latest Bratislava summit that took place on September 26th of this year. He recognized the need of common solutions and a reinforced defence strategy, the necessity to reconnect with the European citizens but without any clear precision on how to proceed. The lack of will for more cooperation was particularly visible in his explanations of Czech Republic’s management of the migration crisis. To justify the refusal of the quotas’ system, decided unanimously by the Visegrad group, he based his argument on the fact that only asylum seekers that wish in first place to come to his country will be accepted. While such a reasoning fits within the framework of the Czech position in terms of national coherence, his vision does not match the urge and the burden of the EU countries welcoming the most of migrants notably in hotspots – for which only a very efficient mechanism of redistribution could be helpful – namely the solidarity principle.

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Czech students at College of Europe with Mr. Prouza and Rector Monar. Photo: © CoE, S. Parmentier

 

 

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