“TTIP has been enormously demonized in the Czech Republic. Yet I doubt the critics hardly know what is inside. The treaty is actually quite good for Czech Republic, especially for its entrepreneurs.” With this clear statement, Pavel Telička, Czech MEP in the ALDE Group, opened the third debate of the series “Interpellations of Czech MEPs”. The event took place in Prague, CERGE-EI on February 17th and was organised by the European Values Think-Tank in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
The third interpellation focused on the support of entrepreneurship. In this context, Pavel Telička mentioned Juncker’s Investement package as an opportunity, yet at the same time he criticized lack of venture capital supply for start-ups. Luděk Niedermayer, MEP representing the EPP Group, pointed out that only a strong Europe can assure a prosperous future for Czech business. This is actually in remarkable contrast to long-term position of the Czech Republic within the EU: Czech politicians have become infamous for their unreadable and unpredictable behaviour during key summits, often going against the main consensus. The debate of the MEPs revealed some of the paradoxes of the Czech EU membership.
Paradox number 1: Czech Republic is a very open economy with most of the GDP stemming from export. More than 80% of the Czech aggregate export goes directly to EU member states. Yet this dependency is strangely perceived as a threat in the Czech Republic. Instead of building a stronger EU, Czech Republic has devoted a lot of effort to opening new export markets outside the EU. As part of this new strategy, Czech Republic has been criticizing sanctions against Russia. The question remains whether in the current geopolitical situation the bet on Eastern markets, above all China and Russia, is the right one.
Paradox number 2: Czech Republic has been flooded by a golden rain of EU funds for the past 10 years. Yet a huge part of this money was badly invested or outright abused. Many dubious projects, such as asphalt cycling paths leading from nowhere to nowhere, became notorious. Czech auditors made a qualified estimate that roughly 20% of Cohesion funds are wasted due to corruption.
Paradox number 3: Many member states including the Czech Republic complain about the administrative burden. Pavel Telička and Evžen Tošenovský (ECR Group) agreed on slashing red tape being one of the crucial areas with a lot of room for improvement. Luděk Niedermayer mentioned an often underestimated dimension of the growing regulation: companies, lobbies and even member states use regulation as a tool to fight each other. Brussels is then blamed for the consequences. Another bad habit spreading in the Czech Republic is gold plating: adding more regulation than necessary when implementing EU law.
While the three paradoxes largely framed the position of the previous governments, the four MEPs vowed to play a more active role in the current European Parliament, moving Czech Republic from periphery towards its centre again.
Pavel Telička (ANO/Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism
Luděk Niedermayer (TOP09/Group of the European People’s Party) – member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs
Evžen Tošenovský (ODS/European Conservatives and Reformists Group) – member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy
Libor Rouček (ČSSD) Formerly the Vice-Chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
A live-tweeting session was set up and the tweets can be found on Twitter under the hashtag #interpelaceMEPs. (http://bit.ly/interpelaceMEPs)
The debate was live-streamed on a Youtube channel (http://t.co/K6K4CvD1fO)
Photo report is available on Facebook.
Václav Bacovský, Project Manager Central Europe and Baltic States