Social Democrat-Communist government and Czech foreign policy

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. With the prospect of the government led by Czech Social Democrats would you expect that the Czech Republic will move more into the EU core?

2. Could it be complicated by the fact that CSSD may govern with a pretty euro-sceptic (and anti-NATO) Communist Party?

Answers:

Cvete Koneska, Analyst – Europe, Global Risk Analysis, Control Risks

A CSSD-led government is likely to be more pro-EU than its centre-right predecessor. In practice this means that the Czech Republic will be more inclined to take a constructive role in EU projects and initiatives that aim at more integration within the EU, such as debates over potential banking union. Domestically, CSSD leaders are unlikely to pursue euro-sceptic rhetoric too, since most of the electorate is not euro-sceptic and such stance is unlikely to benefit the government.

However, the change in rhetoric does not indicate that the country’s EU-related policies are likely to dramatically change during the first few months of a potential CSSD-led government. For instance, progress with adoption of the euro is unlikely to substantially accelerate after the elections, as it would take few years before the country is ready to join the Eurozone.

2. A lot will depend on the actual outcome of the elections and distribution of seats in parliament, which will determine how crucial will the Communist Party’s support be for the CSSD. However, the Communist party is unlikely to be able to shape the country’s foreign and EU policy to the extent that the government will shift its stance on the EU to become more euro-sceptic. However, on specific issues, including some relating to EU or NATO, the CSSD may need to compromise with the Communists in order to ensure survival of the government. As a result, the success of the CSSD in running the country will depend on its ability to find a way to balance the euro-sceptic push from the Communist and from some of the centre-right parties, such as ODS, and its own pro-EU agenda.

Sean Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London

1. Yes, I think a Social Democrat led government would certainly move Czech European policy towards a more integrationist stance, although the real story here is perhaps the decisive political marginalisation of ODS, who – even in the unlikely but not inconceivable event of some kind of Grand Coalition – would lose any influence over foreign and European policy.

2. This is a very interesting question. In many ways a Communist-Social Democrat arrangement for a minority CSSD government perhaps represents the Czech republic’s best chance for political stability right now. However, The prospect of Communist influence on foreign policy will undoubtedly make many European governments nervous.

I think in practice the Social Democrats will be negotiate in such way that concessions to the Communists – and visible signs of Communist influence on government programme – are entirely in the field of domestic social and economic policy. I suspect the Communists would accept such an arrangement as a price worth paying for them to take another step towards being a party of government (And would similarly avoid controversy over portfolios such as education).

Dariusz Kałan, Central Europe analyst, Polish Institute of International Affairs

1. This seems to be quite obvious, while analyzing the ČSSD program and the party’s leaders declarations. Indeed, there is a serious chance that the very first from seven years pro-European government in the Czech Republic will be created. But… There are two doubts.

First of all, it is very likely that foreign policy will fall victim of the ambitions of president Zeman and more liberal wing of ČSSD, which probably will be in charge of foreign policy. Both sides are conflicted with each other and may use foreign policy as an instrument for political fighting. Particularly “unstable” element may be Zeman, who – despite of his “eurofederal’ rhetoric – is not very much interested in international developments, at least in comparison with his predecessor, Klaus. I can imagine him hitting nationalistic tones again, as he did during presidential campaign.

Secondly, there is simply not very broad popular support for such an ambitious pro-European agenda. Czechs are definitely against adopting the common currency (75%), and among all Visegrad states are the most disappointed with the EU (only 28% of Czechs are satisfied with the Czech presence in the EU). For both president with very strong social mandate and the winner of the parliamentary elections this may become an important argument not to exaggerate their eurooptimism.

2. Yes, this may be a problem, but mainly for the country’s image abroad. I do not expect ČSSD to allow communists to influence the Czech foreign policy. Even if – what is still not very likely – a formal coalition between the two will be established, communists will not take over the MFA. This will be against the political tradition (in the Czech Republic the smaller coalition partner usually heads diplomacy), but in the interest of the country. I assume that communists after elections will become more pragmatic, and may limit their anti-Western rhetoric in exchange for jobs for their people in ministries and state-owned companies. Moreover, who knows, maybe KSČM will be gradually changing its agenda from hard communism into something like eurocommunism from 1970s. I have impression that within the party there is a pressure for such a twist.

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