EP President urges Czechs to vote in European Parliamentary elections

01-06-2004

Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, paid a flying visit to Prague on Monday. Mr Cox's trip to the Czech capital was certainly a timely one in that it has helped generate interest in next month's elections to the European Parliament, which have reportedly met with an apathetic response among the Czech populace. One recent survey suggests that as little as 47% of eligible Czech citizens will bother to turn out and vote in next month's poll.

Pat Cox, photo: CTKPat Cox, photo: CTK Mr Cox is urging Czechs to use the upcoming elections as an opportunity to make the most of their membership of the European Union:

"I think the logical conclusion of having voted so overwhelmingly to join the European Union is to now use it to get things done. And the parliament is a 'getting things done' place, where your representative from your part of the country is part of the unbroken chain of democracy."

The new enlarged European Parliament will have 732 seats, of which only 24 will be filled by MEPs from the Czech Republic. Given the fact that the Czech representation is so small, how does Mr Cox feel that Czech candidates elected to the European Parliament can most effectively use their mandate?

"My strong advice is that - when they are elected - they should network, engage and commit. Be good European parliamentarians, and when you need a Czech favour your colleagues will deliver it."

The fact that ten countries will be sending MEPs to the European Parliament for the first time will certainly have an impact on the way this institution works. So what does Mr Cox think the new members can bring to the European Parliament?

"The main hope I have is that you will all arrive with a huge appetite for transformation and reform. We made you go through a lot. You should remind us of this. We need to do some of it ourselves."

There are some who say that populist MEPs from accession countries may promote an aggressive regionalism in the European Parliament, which might prove disruptive. Does Mr Cox think that such fears are justified?

"Not really, I think this is a partnership that we've all worked hard at preparing. We have to settle in and get to know one another, but that happens in any family."

01-06-2004