From its accession to the EU in 2004, the Czech Republic has been among the most eurosceptic member states. Since the initial referendum on EU membership in 2003, there has never been a clear majority in support for European integration among Czechs, as reflected by political figures including former Czech President Václav Klaus, who held out on signing the Lisbon Treaty until well after every other member state had, and current president Miloš Zeman, who called for a Brexit-style referendum in the Czech Republic.
Klaus may have retired, and Zeman’s proposal fell upon deaf ears in the Czech parliament, but the same spirit of defiance towards ever-closer union can be found among many of their countrymen, who elect a new government on October 20-21. Indeed, the party leading in polls is the ANO 2011 (ano meaning “yes” in Czech), led by known eurosceptic Andrej Babiš. Among his pledges are a refusal to adopt the euro, which he has claimed “gives Brussels another area for meddling”, and to push for stricter controls against illegal migration.
Beyond the frontrunners, several other parties oppose further European integration. Klaus’ ODS, led by Petr Fiala presents an economically liberal brand of euroscepticism, opposing Brussels’ increasingly centralized bureaucracy, while the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia denounces the “neoliberal” nature of EU policy, which it sees as antithetical to workers’ rights.
Also likely to obtain parliamentary seats are the pro-transparency Pirate Party, which opposes opaque EU trade negotiations; and the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which believes in referendum initiatives as a means of freeing the Czech Republic from corruption and EU membership.
Though very different in political ideology, these parties all share a mistrust of the EU. Between them, they are also likely to garner a majority of seats in the Czech Parliament, posing a substantial threat to future integration efforts, including new treaties. Political leaders in other parts of the EU (such as French President Emmanuel Macron) may have grand ambitions for the bloc, but they cannot realize them without unanimity across member states.
As it has been for the past decade, the Czech Republic is likely to remain a staunch opponent of ever-closer union, and all in Europe are better off as a result.