Civic Democrats team up with UK Tories for new anti-federalist EP platform

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek may be deeply embroiled in talks on forming a new government, but he still found time this week for a major international political initiative - the founding of a new faction in the European Parliament. The Civic Democrats met Britain's Conservatives in London on Thursday, and agreed to leave the European People's Party in 2009 and form a new alliance called the Movement for European Reform. Attending the talks was the Civic Democrat MEP Jan Zahradil.

Jan Zahradil
"All parties who share our views about the European future are cordially invited to join the platform, and we really do think that this is one of the major and most significant breaks or initiatives when it comes to European Union arrangements. Because it shows that the stream which wants to be seen as the dominant stream, the federalist one, could face a challenge in the future."

You're looking a bit lonely though aren't you? The Conservatives have 27 MEPS, the Civic Democrats have nine. Not very many, is it?

"This is one of the reasons we decided to prepare the whole project properly. We decided to start with it later, because we want to work with well-defined, well-established, real political forces, democratic parties. It's necessary to work on that, and spend some time on defining structures and programmes and platforms."

So what will be the priorities of the Movement for European Reform?

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK
"First and foremost, the European Union has to adopt a more flexible and more open approach, which means we are not against what is called a multi-speed Europe created by various groupings of states that enjoy a different degree of integration. Then of course we're in favour of further enlargement, we are in favour of further decentralisation, debureaucratisation and liberalisation of European legislation, and we do think that if these requirements are fulfilled, the European Union could turn again into a really successful project."

Right, but there is something of a paradox here isn't there? Senior Civic Democrat officials like yourself often describe themselves as Eurosceptics, and you certainly sound like Eurosceptics, yet most of the people who vote for the Civic Democrats are actually in favour of European integration.

"I think this might be a kind of misunderstanding. No-one in the Civic Democrat Party is against European integration. We joined the European Union because we wanted to be part of a successful project. I think there is no contradiction. The problem is that there are some politicians in the European political spectrum who in fact monopolise European thinking and who are trying to present themselves as the only defenders of European values and European integration, and they tend to label all the others as Euro-sceptic. Which is the wrong attitude, because you can have more than one approach to the European future than the federalist one."