Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Czech MEPs promote no common issue after nearly year in office

CTK Daily News - 31 May 2005

Czech deputies to the European Parliament (EP) have not presented any common issue so far, yet some of them have already aroused interest, Katerina Safarikova writes in the latest issue of the weekly Respekt.

Czech MEPs succeeded to understand the EP functioning rather quickly, similarly as representatives from the other new EU member states who joined the parliament last July.

MEPs from other new EU member states mostly have already had a common issue which is typical of them, however. The Polish theme is Ukraine and the MEPs from the Baltics are known for their criticism of Russia, while Slovaks and Hungarians support the Croat EU accession, Safarikova writes.

But there is no topic which could be related to the Czechs, she points out.

Czech MEPs Hynek Fajmon (opposition Civic Democrats, ODS) and Richard Falbr (government Social Democrats, CSSD) differ in their interpretation of the situation.

"There has not yet been an issue on which we would need to comment as Czechs and not as individual representatives of our voters," Fajmon said.

Falbr believes this is because Czech MEPs form groups of very different opinions.

"The ODS is against everything in Europe and one can't talk to the Communists [KSCM]. They [i.e. the ODS and the KSCM] nevertheless represent almost two-thirds of the Czech MEPs. It is thus hardly possible to find anything in common," Falbr said.

The Czech voice has been the loudest during the EP vote on the European constitution so far. The Czech group was the greatest opponent of the constitution, with 17 out of 24 MEPs voting against it, being even more negative than the British one.

This was first of all the result of the Czech election to the EP in which the opposition parliamentary parties, the ODS and the Communists, won, Safarikova says.

Moreover, the MEPs and former media personalities Vladimir Zelezny and Jana Bobosikova, who ran for the Independents Movement, have been rather sceptical of EU integration as well, she adds.

The ODS won nine and the KSCM six mandates, while the Czech government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Independents Association- European Democrats (SN-ED) received two and three mandates, respectively. The Social Democrats have only two deputies.

The activities of individual Czech MEPs have attracted some attention, however. Jana Hybaskova (SN-ED) organised a trip of six female MEPs to the violence-afflicted Darfur, Sudan soon after the election to the EP.

The experience from the trip later contributed to the EP resolution which called on the U.N. to impose sanctions on the Sudanese government. Hybaskova has thus received the reputation of a specialist on the Arab world, Safarikova says.

Libor Roucek (CSSD) is the most active participant in EP plenary discussions among the Czech MEPs. It is no mistake that he is to be the EP foreign committee deputy head as of early 2007.

According to British conservative MEP Charles Tannock, Hybaskova and Roucek have aroused interest.

The nine-member ODS MEPs group nearly always votes unanimously. "It is not a strategy, we simply are of one opinion," Jaroslav Zverina (ODS) says.

The ODS MEPs joined the European People's Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) EP group, though their party does not support EU integration, unlike most of the EPP-ED.

But Jan Zahradil (ODS) makes his stance on the European constitution clear at first sight as he wears his mobile phone on a string with a "Constitution No" sign.

Zahradil is the main connection between the ODS, the KDU-CSL and the British Conservatives. This makes him a relatively well- known figure in the parliament, though he has not been very active there otherwise.

Tannock said that the ODS group is the closest to the British Conservatives in the EP. He considered the groups' stances to be nearly identical, Safarikova says.

The six Czech KSCM MEPs form the second strongest Communist group. Miloslav Ransdorf was therefore elected the deputy head of the left-wing faction.

Czech Communist MEPs have been rather active in EP discussions. Apart from Vera Flasarova (KSCM), whose cliches bring back the time of the former Communist totalitarian regime, they make a normal impression within the parliament, Safarikova writes.

Bobosikova (unaffiliated) is yet another Czech MEP who arouses interest anytime she enters the hall, though not for her criticism of the EU constitution, but rather for her high black shiny ladies' boots and black mini skirt, Safarikova concludes with irony.