Czechs and the EU

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Czechs are often labelled as the biggest Eurosceptics in the whole Europe. However, the new research conducted by the Czech STEM Agency supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Prague suggests otherwise. Almost two thirds of the nation are proud to be part of Europe and more than half of the the people are happy with the EU membership. So what is the problem?

The poll, which was conducted in cooperation with a number of Czech communication and marketing experts, suggests that (just like with almost everything nowadays), the issue is related mainly to the PR. All seems to depend on the selection of words in regards to how EU-excited or EU-antagonist response will you get from the Czechs.

One of the biggest mysteries of the 21st century has been cracked. The ideal communication framework for Czechs to actually start liking the EU has been found.

So what is the key to success? Which words to use and which avoid at any price? How to successfully rebrand the EU?

Knowledge and Pride

Insecurity leads to Euroscepticism. This is the most important take from the sixty-page report written on the basis of  responses of one thousand people, which were analyzed and further elaborated on within over half a year.

This insecurity is chiefly connected to the loss of hope in the future. However, it can be also be attributed to the insecurity in relation to the importance or relevance of the Czech Republic as a country within the EU.

The study shows that the more critical people are about the EU, the less proud they are of their own country. The fear of the loss of sovereignty leads to the fear of the EU.

The key communication framework to tackle this problem is speaking about a proud and strong country which is in charge of its own fate. Moreover, the role of the Czech politicians in the European Council, Council of the EU, or in the European Parliament should be emphasized.

This finding leads to the second important note. The Czechs are not well informed about the functioning of the EU institutions and lack some crucial understanding.

60% do not know that Czech PM and ministers are representing the country in the European Council or the Council of the European Union. 44% do not know that CR is a passive contributor to the EU budget. Finally, 40% do not know that each member country has the veto right in the crucial areas.

The Czechs also lack personal experiences with living abroad. 71% of the surveyed people have no or only one friend in Western Europe. Only 12% have lived abroad for more than 3 months.

Something Interesting, Something Important

The EU is a weak brand, as evidenced by the provided responses. 41% of the Czechs do not feel any strong attachment to it and are stuck somewhere in the neutral zone of any emotional relationship with the EU.

On the other hand, the Czech citizens seem to love Europe. 71% are proud to be Europeans, and 72% think that living in Europe is great.

The strongest association with the word Europe is the word home. Surprisingly, even those who are critical of the EU love Europe. Therefore, to be successful communication-wise, when talking to a Czech about the European politics, the EU should be replaced by Europe to get a positive response.

The CzechOut or the Czech referendum on the EU membership is a topic which pops out every now an then in the public debate. However, if such a situation occurs, it is not a good strategy to start scaring people with the horrible impacts such a move could have on the future. As explained above, the most Eurosceptic attitudes are exhibited by the people who are already worried about the future. This is precisely why scaring the already scared would not bring much success.

A way more efficient way is to pick a specific threat and explain how the EU membership helps to prevent it and what are the benefits for the EU.

What Do They Want

What are the Czechs the most critical of regarding the EU? They believe that too much time and attention is being paid to marginal issues and that the EU burdens people with more bureaucratization. The way the EU operates is slow, overly complicated, and incomprehensible as an institution which likes to lecture others and does not care about the common folk. Also, it wastes money.

What do the Czech citizens appreciate is that the EU safeguards peace. People enjoy the perks of regional development, which was possible thanks to the EU subsidies; hence, the economic benefits of the EU membership are clearly recognized. Apart from that, the positive environmental impact of the EU is also highly appreciated.

People want the EU to protect their safety from wars, terrorism, migration, and military attacks from the third countries. They are also interested in the quality of their lives in terms of quality of foodstuffs, drugs, and environment, and they expect the EU membership to help them meet their goals in this regard.

Furthermore, the Czechs tend to perceive the EU in a positive light as long as it provides protection from external threats, such as Russian aggresion, immigration, low quality medical drugs from India, cheap labor, or smog from Poland.

However, measures and policies that should be implemented in the country are perceived negatively.

What about the Rest of the V4

The Czech Republic has for a long time been perceived as the black sheep of a strongly pro-European V4 region. However, the latest poll conducted by the Slovak think tank Globsec might suggest that the trend is changing.

Slovaks seem to be currently least fond of the EU in the region. Moreover, only 22% of Slovaks want their country to belong to the West. At the same time, the older generation of Slovaks evaluates the fall of the communist regime the most negatively in the region.

The simulation of the EP elections conducted in the Slovak high schools confirms this trend. Eurosceptic far right is also popular among the young Slovaks, with the extremist LSN party, which might win with 16% of voter support.

On the other hand, the Hungarians and the Poles have stood up to their reputation of the EU lovers. The majority of Poles, despite the geopolitical location of the country, are strongly West-oriented and are convinced that their country belongs to the West.

On the other hand, the Hungarian society showed weaker resilience towards conspiracy theories. Some strong anti-Jewish sentiments have been found within the society. On average, 28% of Hungarians aged 18–24 years caim they are not sure whether Jews do not control governments and have too much power; whether there are secret societies aiming to establish a totalitarian world order or who conducted the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Adela Kleckova
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom