The Czech EU business balance sheet after 10 years

Photo: European Commission

Some basic profit and loss accounts for EU membership have been produced, though an exact figure in the bottom line is not easy to determine.

Photo: European Commission
A net profit of 333 billion crowns is the crude balance sheet of 10 years in the European Union, according to the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes. The calculation stems from some basic math of the sums the country has been paying in membership dues to Brussels and the cash being received back, including the often problematic EU funds.

The EU funds by the way, have built 1,800 kilometers of roads and motorways, just over 300 kilometers of rail tack, helped restore just under 200 monuments, and created almost 76,000 jobs, according to figures from Ministry for Regional Development.

Of course, the club is more than a mechanism for redirecting flows of capital, although if you are on the receiving end it cannot be unwelcome. There’s also the export opportunities, inward investment, and other economic aspects that have made a major impact on the Czech Republic. Inward foreign investment is estimated at more than 600 million euros until 2012 alone.

And while there is perhaps a lot to celebrate, it would be fair to say most Czechs might come up with one cheer for the EU, at best two, rather than the usual three. Europe is perceived, perhaps, like a watch inherited from an elderly relative which you are obliged to wear although it only functions intermittently. A trip to the repairers might solve the problem, but might, on the other hand, destroy it for good.

The Czech weekly Ekonom worked out that the EU had helped result in 51 months of Czech prosperity, 37 months of hope, and 32 of crisis. Basically, then, around one gloomy day in four.

Part of the equivocal attitude might be that the Czech economy has performed the least well of all the Višegrad Four over the last 10 years in terms of catching up with the wealthy west.

The country started out in 2004 at 78 percent of average EU wealth on the basis of local purchasing power. But by 20012 had advanced by just 2.8 percentage points to 80.8 percent of EU wealth, still the highest proportion of the Visegrad Four, but only just.

Slovakia, meanwhile, rocketed by 19.0 percentage points from 56.9 percent a decade ago to 75.9 percent of average EU wealth over the same period. Poland moved up 16 percentage points to 66.5 percent, and even the slow performing Hungarians advanced at a quarter of that pace by four percentage points to 66.9 percent. The figures come from a helpful and upbeat report to the Slovak government about its 10 years in Europe. Bratislava has a lot more reasons to be cheerful on the eve of the birthday.

The Czech Republic, which used to paint itself as the regional ‘chosen one’ with chauvinistic former president Václav Klaus frequently refusing to have the country stuck in the same basket as Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, is now very much alongside its neighbours in economic terms.

Czech businessmen frequently complain about the bureaucracy and higher energy costs that the EU has brought. More than two-thirds of new laws flowing through the Czech parliament have their origins in Brussels. But modifications in Prague, such as the disastrous renewables incentives, are not always desirable home produced tag-ons to the basic principles.