Statement of the Democratic Club on the Referendum on the Czech Republic Joining European Union
In the middle of June 2003, Czech citizens will have an opportunity to decide whether the Czech Republic should become a member of the European Union on the basis of conditions stated in the agreement signed previously. It will require that every citizen must responsibly consider all the advantages and disadvantages of this vital step.
The basic intention of the European Union is to recast Europe into a territory of peace in which the war conflicts that scourged its population through its history will be eliminated. Currently European law assures that the Union can accept only countries with a democratic system of government and respect for human rights and the rule of law. The Democratic Club believes that the membership in such a community will accord with the membership in the NATO also guarantee Czech citizens a democratic development and will retention of national identity.
Although this view of the entry into the European Union seems to be predominant, we find it necessary to also consider other views that we find unacceptable or seemingly unacceptable.
As far as the economic question is concerned, the accession into the EU will help our businesses by eliminating trade barriers and will open the large market of the entire Union to Czech exporters. They will be able to penetrate this market only if they are able to adapt to the new environment. If they succeed, they will also improve their position in the domestic market. We should however keep in mind the fact that the entry into EU by poorer countries (Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal) had a positive effect on their economies. That applies also to the agriculture sector, for which our negotiators managed to find an agreement on acceptable conditions as far as subsidies and production quotas are concerned. The majority of them agreed upon quotas being at the level of 2002 production.
The required transition period raises several questions especially about those that were demanded by the Union. Because of these conditions, citizens of the new member states will not be able to take advantage of the free movement of labor within the Union, in some cases for up to seven years. Certainly we would have preferred if the agreement would not have included such lengthy transition periods. However, we have to admit, that the considerable difference between the economies of new member states, especially the differences in the level of wages and prices, make such provisions necessary. Without them, any expansion of European Union would not be possible. Such provisions were applied also against some current members when they sought membership in the EU, however the conditions were soon repealed. We should remember though that the Czech Republic also insisted and obtained certain temporary exceptions in areas, which were considered important. Especially the right not to sell land to non-Czech citizens, and a possible delay in introducing some ecological provisions, which would have been troublesome for the Czech economy.
We consider the fear of some our citizens that the courts of EU would order revision of post WWII property transfers completely unnecessary. The basic judicial system of the EU ascribes all decisions in the property rights questions to the courts of individual nations. Any interference by EU courts is thus precluded by EU law.
An outpouring of discussion followed the conclusion of the negotiations in Copenhagen in 2002. We must note that several of our public media reported inaccurately on the financial aspect of our joining the EU, and gave the impression to many people that the question of money obtained from the European Union, its allocation and distribution is a decisive element that should be considered in our decisions about joining the EU. While comparing the various financial packages, what the media completely overlooked was the fact that the Czech Republic will not have to provide resources to secure the outside borders of the EU, and to finance the closing of its nuclear power plants. The level of agricultural subsidies we will receive is lower because the proportion of agricultural population in the Czech Republic is considerably smaller than in other newly accepted countries. We should also realize that the Czech Republic is one of the wealthier and thus less needy newly accepted members. As for as resources offered as a gift by the EU or for that matter by anyone else are concerned, we consider any discussion of their worth to the beneficiaries to be unfortunate, if not actually inappropriate and insulting to the donor.
We are also of the opinion that some unfortunate collateral aspects of our transformation process, especially corruption and low esteem of the rule of law can much easier be overcome through intensive cooperation with the original members of EU who in most cases have long democratic traditions.
For all these reasons the Democratic Club is encouraging its members and supporters as well as all citizens to take part in the referendum and in the interest of the continued democratic development of our country to vote for our entry into the European Union.Prague, April 9, 2003
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