Czechs have started voting in elections to the European Parliament with 841 candidates from 40 parties running for the country’s 21 seats in the assembly. Although the Czech Republic is the only country where voting is possible over the course of two days, voter turnout is traditionally expected to lag behind the EU average.
The Czech government is poised to amend the Food and Consumer Protection acts so as to ban the practice of “dual quality” sales of food and other products. If signed into law, retailers would be banned from selling inferior quality products that appear to be the same as superior ones sold elsewhere in the EU.
Radek Špicar is vice-president of the Czech Confederation of Industry. But since last year – spurred into action by the UK’s Brexit vote – he has also been travelling the length and breadth of the country trying to convince ordinary Czechs of the merits of remaining in the European Union. When we spoke, Špicar shared the insights he has gleaned from dozens of such public debates. But first I asked him why he felt the pro-EU atmosphere in Czech society prior to accession in 2004 had evidently dissipated so much.
EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová has warned against organized
disinformation campaigns in the European elections, particularly
manipulation from Russia.
In an interview for the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) Jourová said "we cannot allow that even in one member state the election results are tampered with by manipulation.”
The commissioner said these elections were “a fateful choice for Europe” and that organized disinformation campaigns from abroad were seeking to exploit current divisions in society. “Europe needs to be aware," Jourová said.
Twenty-seven percent of Czechs plan to vote in the European elections later
this month, according to the results of a survey conducted by the polling
The agency notes however that the actual number of voters tends to lower than that declared in polls. Of those who have said they will go to the polls, the majority are people with a university education and the inhabitants of big cities. Also more men plan to cast their vote than women.
The last European elections, in 2014, had an 18 percent turnout.
EU leaders are meeting in Sibiu, Romania on Thursday for a summit that was originally intended to affirm post-Brexit unity and chart a course for future development. Although member states are expected to adopt a declaration of “unity and confidence in the future”, the summit is overshadowed by uncertainty regarding the outcome of European elections, due later this month, and the many question marks surrounding Brexit.
Prague is marking the fifteenth anniversary of Czech accession to the
European Union with an open-air festival on Střelecký Island on Thursday.
The free festival features concerts, competitions and games for families, along with presentations by EU institutions and member states, and a political debate.
In the musical part, Concert for Europe, Milan Svoboda will perform with the Prague big band, featuring Ondřej Brzobohatý, Matěj Ruppert, and Jiří Stivín. Also appearing are Rapper Kato with his band Prago Union and Circus Problem.
Taking part in a public debate are EU commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) and Mayor of Prague Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates).
Czech politicians have been highlighting the importance of Czech membership
in the EU, as Czechs mark 15 years in the alliance.
Deputy Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček said the EU had given the country economic and political stability as well as security. “There is no alternative to EU membership and those who say so are lying,” Hamáček said.
“Fifteen years ago today the dream of many generations came true,” Foreign Minister Tomas Petříček wrote on Twitter. “The Czech Republic became a fully-fledged member of the European family of free and democratic nations. Like every family the EU has good days and bad days, but the fate of this family, and our own, is in our hands, that is something we should value highly,” Petricek wrote.
Petr Fiala, leader of the centre-right Civic Democrats said he was proud it was his party which brought the Czech Republic to NATO and the EU. “After 40 long years of totalitarian rule the Czechs returned to the European fold of democratic nations where they belong,” Fiala said.