Czechs wake up to changes in EU state
It was a weekend of celebration. Many people spent Saturday night out in the open, drinking champagne in the streets of Prague or savouring the feeling of walking through border check points, with nothing but an identity card. The media reported on the birth of the first Euro babies in the Czech Republic and endlessly quizzed Czechs about how they felt as European citizens. Euro balloons, flags and Euro-car stickers sold like hot cakes. Now, the party's over and it's "business as usual" as the reality of our EU membership slowly sinks in. So in what way will EU membership affect people's everyday lives at this point? Daniela Lazarova sums up the main changes:
People will now also be able to live and work abroad - not just in Britain, Ireland and Sweden, but in the other EU member states as well because the set quotas for labour permits have not been filled in many states. Is this something Czechs are looking forward to?
Many people have been worried about prices - and although we didn't really experience the shopping frenzy they had in Poland - price increases have been a major concern...
That's true and while most people were out there celebrating EU membership many shopkeepers spent the weekend changing price tags on goods. That's not to say that there will be a huge price jump as a result of accession itself - but the change of VAT rates will bring some changes - prices in restaurants and fast food outlets will go up, as will the price of some services, on the other hand electronic goods - which Czechs love buying - are expected to go down so there will be some compensation.
Jan Velinger spoke to some restaurant owners and clients and here's what they had to say:
"I don't think it will be so tragic. The prices of alcohol, beer, will probably stay the same or rise by a minimum. But, the food prices, that's the big problem. Everywhere."
"Right now we are weighing just how much to increase prices, it will, unfortunately be necessary. We will have to raise prices on the menu, though we are looking for ways around it, such as raising prices on exclusive items in order to be able to keep ready-to-go daily meals low for regular customers so that the increase won't come as quite a shock. We don't want to lose any customers but an increase is inevitable."
"I think it will have a significant impact because I do eat out a lot, I'd say everyday I have my lunch in a restaurant. I have to say I believe that the 14 percent increase will seriously damage my wallet."
"It won't have any impact on me but, yeah, it's clear it will have an impact on many of my fellow citizens."
"I work in the restaurant sector and I've already seen and felt the difference in prices. On the other hand those were already expensive before, so I don't think a few crowns more will kill anybody."
Well, there you have it - eating out was fairly expensive even before accession. And most Czechs still don't eat out regularly. As for the price of food stuffs in shops and supermarkets -there's no significant change there. Some prices have gone up slightly, some have come down but your week's shopping bill should pretty much stay the same. What may change is the brands of goods on sale since some stores are already negotiating with foreign firms but buyers are not likely to complain about that - it's Czech producers who have to worry about that because now they will really start to feel the pinch of competition on the EU market.