ANO leader Andrej Babiš, who is widely expected to be the country‘s next prime minister, has said he is opposed to the Czech Republic adopting the euro and is against any further integration with the EU. Speaking in a debate at Charles University, Finance Minister Babiš said he would happily support a multi-speed Europe within which EU members would be free to decide how fast and to what measure they wanted to proceed with EU integration.
With October’s general elections just months away, the leader of the ANO party which has kept a strong lead ahead of its rivals, is making clear what his plans for the country are – and euro adoption is clearly not on the agenda. “I don’t want to be in the Eurozone, I don’t want the country to be a guarantor for Greek or Italian banks” Babiš said in a debate at Charles University. He noted that the single currency was originally a sound economic project, but had turned into a political one and he firmly believed that the Czech crown was now more advantageous for the country than the euro.
In an interview for the weekly Euro, Babiš said he did not think the Czech Republic would become a net contributor to the EU budget, even after 2020, and questioned the rules governing the distribution of EU subsidies, especially under the soft programs. He said it was a pity the Czech Republic did not have a bigger influence on the way the money was used. EU countries should say themselves in what European projects they want to participate and in what not, Babiš said.
“I do not want a common immigration policy with France or Germany, the Czech Republic should have its own immigration policy, it should alone decide who it will let into the country, who should get a work permit and where it will send humanitarian aid,” he noted. “Every state has its own national interests, and we want to fight for Czech national interests,” Babiš concluded.
The party’s main rival in the elections, the Social Democrats, are much more cautious in their statements. Although PM Bohuslav Sobotka has expressed the view that the country should not set a euro-adoption date until the state of its public finances improves and the standard of living gets closer to that of advanced EU member states, he criticized the idea of a multi-speed Europe, saying it would leave the countries in the slow-lane out of important decision-making. The third party in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats, has expressed similar concerns. Party leader Pavel Bělobrádek said that it would not be to the country’s advantage to remain outside the Eurozone. He said that as an export-dependent economy the Czech Republic should keep in mind who its strong economic partners are. It is not a question of needing the euro, we need to have the same currency with Germany and the Netherlands, Bělobrádek said.
The leader of the opposition TOP 09 Miroslav Kalousek has stressed the need to adopt the euro as soon as possible in order to increase the country’s influence on decision-making. No one will give countries in the slow lane the time of day, Kalousek predicted.