Was the Czechs' vote anti-European?

The winner of the Czech parliamentary elections Andrej Babiš has announced that he will promote his tough anti-immigration course at the EU level. During his election campaign he had already adopted an anti-European stance. Prague wants nothing more to do with Europe's values, commentators complain, and discuss why Babiš' line is so popular with voters.

Open/close all quotes
Denník N (SK) /

Prague only likes the EU for its money

EU money will matter more than its values for the next Czech prime minister, Dennik N believes:

“Babiš is a pragmatic. He knows that the Czech economy needs European subsidies. The Union is important for export-oriented Czech firms. Babiš's companies don't just owe their success to his skills as an entrepreneur, as he maintains. The main reason - at least in the agricultural sector - is EU funding. So Babiš certainly won't call the Czech Republic's EU membership into question. ... That doesn't mean, however, that one day he won't adopt anti-European rhetoric similar to that of Hungary's Viktor Orbán.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Eastern Europe's populists exploiting nostalgia

Politicians like Babiš are exploiting the discontent of the citizens in Eastern Europe, 24 Chasa surmises:

“'Everything was better in the old days' is the classic slogan populists use to lure most voters. Particularly in Eastern Europe where the transition from communism to capitalism has left many people poorer and feeling betrayed and disillusioned. Democracy hasn't led to the prosperity they had hoped for. This has left people so weary that they are willing to give power to politicians who behave like dictators as long as they promise to restore justice. ... Babiš has promised the disillusioned all the things they wanted. ... That he has promised to destroy the power of an elite to which he himself belongs doesn't bother the voters.”

Turun Sanomat (FI) /

Anti-EU campaign has blinded voters

Czech voters seem not to realise how much their country benefits from EU membership, Turun Sanomat complains:

“Ano's election victory was based on a campaign against the EU and the euro, that also targeted immigration, Germany and EU asylum policy. And this campaign seems to have caught on with voters. According to the most recent Eurobarometer surveys, only 29 percent of Czechs think EU membership is a good thing. The Czech Republic's economic growth rate is among the highest in the EU, exports are booming and unemployment is low. Apparently it means little to voters that the country has benefited enormously from cooperation with Germany, the EU single market and the EU's regional funding programmes.”

Gazeta Polska Codziennie (PL) /

Czechs will team up with Poland and Hungary

Under the new government the Czech Republic will team up with Hungary and Poland, Igor Szczęsnowicz of the Gazeta Polska Codziennie predicts:

“The Visegrád Group is getting stronger. It is now so strong that it's a delight. Naturally when I say 'strong' I refer to a decisively Eurosceptic and anti-immigration stance. Poland and Hungary are refusing to take in immigrants and allow socialist EU commissioners to impose their will on their country. The Czech Republic will soon join forces with these two countries. We can count on that after the election victory of Andrej Babiš' Ano party.”

Pravda (SK) /

Slovakia distancing itself from Visegrád Group

In Slovakia, however, the situation is altogether different. After the Czech elections Prime Minister Robert Fico, President Andrej Kiska and Parliamentary Speaker Andrej Danko signed a joint declaration committing the country to a pro-European course. This could spell the end for the Visegrád Group, Pravda writes:

“In defence of these three politicians' honour it must be said that the passing bell first started ringing in the Czech Republic, where the populist, Eurosceptic right has won. With this vote the Czech Republic has moved closer to Warsaw and Budapest than to Berlin and Brussels. In this context Slovakia looks like a pro-Western and pro-European island in a sea of Central European uncertainty to which Austria now also belongs. Our Slovakian support for Europe is not perfect. But it is clearly the strongest in the region right now.”