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Embracing Europe, opposing EUrope?: The party politics of euroscepticism in the Czech Republic

Hanley, S; (2008) Embracing Europe, opposing EUrope?: The party politics of euroscepticism in the Czech Republic. In: Taggart, P and Szczerbiak, A, (eds.) Opposing Europe?: The Comparative Party Politics of Euroscepticism: Case Studies and Country Surveys. (243 - 262). Oxford University Press: Oxford.

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Abstract

Following the collapse of communism in Eastern and Central |Europe in 1989, many commentators saw the democratic traditions, political stability and relatively successful economic programme Czechoslovakia - and latterly the Czech Republic – as making the country a prime candidate for membership of the European Union. These expectations were largely confirmed by the Czech Republic’s inclusion amongst those Central and East European states invited to begin accession negotiations in 1998 and after the successful conclusion of these negotiations in December 2002 to join the EU itself in 2004. However, despite consistent majorities in favour of accession to the EU among both public and political parties, levels of euroscepticism in the Czech Republic are significantly higher than in most other applicant states in the region. This was puzzling given that Czechoslovakia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989 seemed to mark a clear reaffirmation of the traditional Czech orientation towards Western Europe. The chapter traces the development of Czech party debates on European integration and EU membership after 1989 and the role of party-based euroscepticism within them. After briefly outlining the historical background, it traces how the question of‘Europe’ evolved from a widely shared symbolic affirmation of a break with the communist past to a contentious set of issues concerning membership of the European Union, dividing both mainstream and radical parties. The chapter then analyzes in more detail the positions of the three most significant eurosceptic groupings in the Czech Republic: the Communists, the Republicans and other groups on the far right, and the centre-right Civic Democratic Party of former Prime Minister Václav Klaus. It concludes with assessments of the evolution of the Czech debate on Europe and the underlying causes of the party-based euroscepticism in the Czech Republic. Here it argues that Czech eurosceptic parties' discourse has increasingly converged around an updated version of the traditional nationalist paradigm of the Czechs as a ‘small nation’ overshadowed by Germany.

Type:Book chapter
Title:Embracing Europe, opposing EUrope?: The party politics of euroscepticism in the Czech Republic
Keywords:Czech Republic, European Union, EU accession, euroscepticism
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies)

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