Government's EU campaign under fire

28-05-2003

In less than three weeks now Czechs are due to vote in a national referendum on EU accession. The government's campaign to convince them to go to the polls and vote YES is in full swing - but is it having the desired effect?

It would be difficult to remain unaware of what is going on. The country's two public TV channels are both featuring a vast number of upbeat EU accession adds. A Greek restaurant owner, an Irish computer specialist and a Finnish consultant all talk about how their country has flourished since it joined the EU-and how their own lives have improved as a result. Pleasant people, in a pleasant environment. But not everyone is happy with the choice. "Trivial" and "weak" are some of the adjectives that opponents use to describe it. President Vaclav Klaus and the opposition Civic Democrats claim that the government has done a very bad job -and wasted 200 million crowns in the process. The main argument is that Czechs are not getting enough serious information - just happy pictures. They also point out that the media campaign suggests that everything has already been decided - a factor that might affect turnout. So how do Czechs themselves feel about the matter? Jitka Uhrova of the STEM agency for public opinion research has some of the answers:

"Czech citizens are aware of the campaign -to be precise 62% the population are familiar with it, mainly people with a higher level of education and young people."

How do they feel about the campaign itself?

"People are mostly satisfied with it. 48% consider it to be successful, only a third criticize it and 19% don't have an opinion on it. "

Do they feel that they are getting enough information on what membership in the EU entails?

"About half of the population says it would like more information on this matter, there are still people who do not have a clear idea of what EU membership entails."

Do you have any idea how many people are actually going to the polls in just over a fortnight's time?

"About 60% of the population have said they will vote in the referendum and there are still some people who are undecided as whether they will vote or not."

How many of those will vote YES?

"Of the sixty percent who plan to vote approximately eighty percent will vote in favour of EU accession. Twenty percent would vote against."

28-05-2003