Impact of EU accession to Czech parties
Some articles claim that European political parties had changed during the process of EU accession and that this enlargement played significant role in parties’ competition. This paper argues, that political parties in the Czech Republic did not changed their position based on EU influence and that they did support EU accession from the beginning of the negotiation. I use as an example two major parties, Civic Democratic party from the right-wing and Social democratic party from the left-wing of Czech political scale.
Milada A. Vachudova claims, that EU expects Eastern countries to be more right, and gal if they are pro-european. Eastern parties made their agenda more EU compatible and moved towards right and gal position. The reason for this is EU conditionality and the mechanism of credible commitment – she says that it would be too costly to start moving in a reversing direction, and also moving forward goes hand by hand with accepting of new laws, implementing new reform and restructuring the administration.
Grzymala-Busse and Innes also say that European union had so many expectations from the candidate states, that it caused lack of public debate, as everyone was focusing just on the EU requirements. They assume, that these states will change its form to comply these expectations, but capacity and public legitimacy will lag behind.
I argue that a lack of public debate is when there is a consensus about majority issues, and no space for creating different opinions and competition. There was a public debate during the process of accession in the Czech Republic, the EU laws and regulations do not cover each public policy issue. For example the social politic is pretty much left in the hands of national states. Also within the EU issue there was some disagreements about how to enter the Union and under which conditions. I think that this is public debate as it was not sure if the Czech Republic will enter EU.
The Czech Republic is considered as a strange case, because of the Euro-skepticism of ODS (usually is euro-skepticism linked with the left-wing) and the position of Czech communist party (which remained communist party even right after the revolution and did not transform itself into more moderate form). ODS was in 1998 perceived as a libertarian party, but by the year 2006 this perception has changed and it is more conservative. This change can be seen only as a shift between different meanings of social dimension. It is not caused by EU influence.
Grzymala-Busse and Innes say that Václav Klaus turned to euroskepticism as a way to regain popularity, when the ODS lost power. I claim that this party had always a consistent opinion about European integration.
In the programmatic declaration of ODS from 1995, there is a very clear statement that the Czech Republic should join the European Union. There is also written that EU in the future should be formed from sovereign states that have voluntarily joined the union, and that the sovereignty of the Union should be derived. ODS was cautious about the supranationalism from the beginning.
In 2001 Jan Zahradil wrote the “Manifesto of the Czech Eurorealism”, which showed the weaknesses of European integration and talks about unequal conditions for the new Member States. Despite all reservations ODS still says that joining the EU is their aim.
During the election in 2002 there was a motto “ODS votes EU” which was a clear message that the party supports European integration. They did not want to be part of some kind of European super state and they claimed that there should be a national sovereignty in the key issues. ODS wanted to be involved in forming the EU future.
In the programmatic statement from 2010 there is written: “ODS has always understood and understands European Union as an important pillar of the international status of Czech Republic”. My point is therefore to show, that ODS have not changed its attitude towards EU and did not moved its agenda due to EU accession. ODS have always been right-wing party and did not become more gal, just the opposite.
The biggest political party in the Czech republic, Social democratic party (ČSSD) is a left-wing party and always showed strong support for the European integration and EU. How can Vachudova says, that pro-europeanism goes hand by hand with the right? Does it have something to do - the economic division of the left and right with a focus on European integration? I assume not. In the Czech Republic, we can see how it does not play any role, we have left-wing parties which are euroskeptical as the communist party, and we also have right-wing parties which are strongly in favour of EU.
Connection between tan and gal position, and European integration preferences is much more clear to me. I agree that gal position leads to EU support, because libertarian thinking suggests a willingness to broad cooperation, free markets and a wider range of economic possibilities. On the other hand, conservatism seeks to preserve national values and tries to avoid excessive dissolution state in transnational structures. But we must not generalize so easily, as we can see in the ODS case, the conservative party can encourage participation in the EU, although with reservations.
Some parties maybe took more right and gal position to comply EU requirements (as Vachudova proved in her article), but it was not the case of the Czech republic. There always was a political competition, two major parties had often changed roles in the government but both wanted to join the union. There was a certain consensus, but it did not lead to lack of public debate and it also did not lead to shift towards gal and right. There was public debate over many areas of politics, the parties did not focus just on the EU issue. There maybe was consensus about joining union, but it does not mean lack of debate – Jan Zahradil from the ODS made it clear with his Manifesto of Czech eurorealism. It is also obvious, that the parties did not change their position, as we can see in their programmatic statements and as we can deduce from their position in right-left scale.
ROVNÝ, Jan. Political parties in Eastern Europe. University of Gothenburg. Gothenburg, 16.9.2012.
VACHUDOVA, Milada A. Tempered by the EU?: Political parties and party systems before and after accession. Journal of European Public Policy. 2008, 15:6, 861 - 879.
GRZYMALA-BUSSE, Anna and Abby INNES. Great expectations: The EU and domestic political competition in East Central Europe. East European politics and societies. 2003, 17:1, 64 - 73.
Politický program ODS. In: ODS: Občanská demokratická strana [online]. 1995. < HYPERLINK “http://www.ods.cz/politicky-program/politicky-program-ods” http://www.ods.cz/politicky-program/politicky-program-ods>
Politický program ODS. In: ODS: Občanská demokratická strana [online]. 2002. < < HYPERLINK “http://www.ods.cz/docs/programy/program2002.pdf” http://www.ods.cz/docs/programy/program2002.pdf>
Politický program ODS. In: ODS: Občanská demokratická strana [online]. 2010. < < < HYPERLINK “http://www.ods.cz/docs/programy/volebni-program2010.pdf” http://www.ods.cz/docs/programy/volebni-program2010.pdf>
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