Czechast with Karel Barták

Karel Barták

There is no doubt that one of the pivotal moments in Czech history I just mentioned came twenty years ago when this country joined the European Union.

In the last episode, I talked to a businessman with experience from the highest echelons of Czech and European civil service—or bureaucracy, if you prefer this term. Now, I have a special guest whose experiences weave through the complex tapestry of European journalism.

20th anniversary of the Czech Republic's accession to the EU | Photo: René Volfík,

Karel Barták is a veteran journalist who spent 11 very important years as a Czech News Agency correspondent in Brussels from 1995 to 2006. He then gained another completely different experience working for the European Commission for 12 years before retiring and coming back to his home in Czechia.

Karel's journey began at a time when the Czech Republic had yet to even apply for EU membership. His mission? To master the intricacies of EU policies and report on the progress of the accession talks. As Karel witnessed, not all Western countries were at first enthusiastic about accepting Czechia, Slovakia, and other post-communist countries as equal partners:

"The French, the Belgians, the Italians and some of the other founding member states of the European Union were much more cautious. They were basically saying: we have to reform internally, before this enlargment can happen."

According to polls, Czechs are now, twenty years after accession to the European Union, among the nations most skeptical toward its institutions. Among other things, you will hear Karel Barták’s explanation on why most Czechs are also against the adoption of the common currency, the euro:

"I think the refusal of the euro has become a kind of symbol for the resistance towards the EU and fight for the safeguard of the national sovereignty. And that is why the refusel of the euro is pure politics. It's got very little to do with the economy."

Many people may consider the story of Czech accession and membership in the European Union quite boring. I beg to differ. Yes, it is complicated and burdened by bureaucratic jargon. But I believe the entry of Czechia into the European Union twenty years ago, along with accession to NATO, was the most important moment in the history of this nation since World War II. And Karel Barták witnessed these monumental events from the proverbial front seat.

Author: Vít Pohanka
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    Czechast is a regular RPI podcast about Czech and Moravian culture, history, and economy.