Czech government plugs Union membership on Europe Day
Wednesday in the Czech Republic was Europe Day, where ordinary people had the chance to put their questions to the politicians and officials involved in negotiating Czech accession to the EU. As several delicate issues have arisen recently, such as a proposal to prevent workers from post-Communist countries finding jobs in the EU after expansion, there was no shortage of questions requiring an answer. Nick Carey was there, and brings back this report.
But according to Pavel Klus, the man in charge of the Eurostand, most people are simply curious He feels the main problem is that the Czechs don't know enough about what EU membership involves, and are simply hungry for knowledge:
"I see that the people are hungry. This is not usually a point of special interest for ordinary people, the problems of EU membership. It is not central to their lives and our project is meant to involve them in the process, and it is obvious that the people are really hungry for information."
One of the main questions that was aired repeatedly during debates on EU accession was the free movement of labour, a touchy subject that has received intense media attention in the Czech Republic over the past few weeks. Germany and Austria face wide public concerns at home over a possible influx of cheap labour from the east following expansion, and have therefore proposed a transition period of up to seven years, during which time workers from new member states will not be able to seek gainful employment in the 'EU 15'. The chief Czech negotiator for EU accession, Pavel Telicka, has warned that this could be playing into the hands of Czech eurosceptics, but the EU's ambassador to Prague, Ramiro Cibrian, does not feel that this is the case: