Are Czech businesses ready for EU?

EU and the Czech Republic

The Czech government has pledged to bring the country's legislation in line with the EU's Acquis Communautaire by the end of 2002. But it's not just Czech legislation that has to be harmonized prior to EU accession, the country's industry must also be ready to comply with EU regulations. And while many Czech companies are eagerly awaiting the entry date, and the benefits and new opportunities they may find on the EU's markets, others are still completely unprepared. Vladimir Tax reports.

While many Central European enterprises are only partially informed and prepared for joining the EU's single market, they are universally optimistic about their future prospects. Larger companies, especially those exporting to the EU, are better informed and better prepared for enlargement. However, many businesses urgently need to intensify their accession preparations.

This is the conclusion of a survey on the state of preparations for the single market among Central European enterprises. The study, called CAPE 2001, was conducted by Eurochambres, an association of 1,300 chambers of commerce and industry in 34 European countries.

The Economic Chamber of the Czech Republic presented the results of the study in Prague this week and I asked the director of the chamber's analytic department, Vaclav Smejkal about the attitude of Czech companies to EU accession.

"In general, they feel rather optimistic about their future in the EU and the majority of them think that by 2003, they will be ready. So, there should be no delay in the accession."

Does the optimism correspond to the real situation?

"We are in the middle of the continent, so some competitive pressures are already there, we are very close to strong competitors from Germany, from Austria, so they have a more or less realistic view of what they should expect on the single market."

"On the other hand, there is a group of 15 or 20 percent of Czech enterprises that still think they won't be affected - since we are not exporting we do not have to care about the EU because it is not for us - and, of course, I think these companies are mistaken. As an economic chamber, we have to persuade them that there is a requirement for every company to adapt to some standards and to some extent, every company will have to sustain the competition on the single market."

What are the main problems Czech companies see in the accession process?

"The main problems can be described as an investment burden which is linked to some EC either technical or legal or health and safety requirements, so companies will have to invest in order to comply, and of course, they will have to adapt their strategy in order to be able to compete. So, both questions of technical adaptation and investment and of strategic adaptation and competition, these are the most important issues companies will have to pay attention to."