Eighth Europe Day in Czech Republic


For eighteen years now, May 9th has been celebrated as "Europe Day" in countries of the European Union. In 1950, against the background of the instability and the need to rebuild a shattered Europe, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented a declaration calling on France, Germany and other European countries to pool together their coal and steel production. The event is considered to have been the first step taken towards the creation of what is now the European Union. The Czech Republic joined the annual celebration of the diversity of cultures within Europe in 1995. On the eve of the 8th Europe Day in this country, Daniela Lazarova went to a festival organised by the European Commission for young people and young families in Prague. She spoke there to the head of the EU delegation in the Czech Republic, Ramiro Cibrian, and began by asking him what was the main aim of the event.

"The main aim of the events that take place in Europe on the 8th and 9th of May is always to remember not only the end of WW2 but also the efforts that were made precisely on these days to create a new Europe. The Czech Republic is going to become a member state of the European Union and naturally is already participating in the celebrations of the Schuman anniversary on the 9th of May every year."

You talk to a lot of people in this country, you travel around the country very often, you talk to people - you speak very good Czech if I may say so - what is your impression of people, what do they say to you when they meet you face to face?

Ramiro Cibrian
"Well, when I have the opportunity to speak with a normal citizen, with a normal Czech person, I have the conviction that there is an interest in joining Europe, in being part of Europe. Of course, there are some legitimate doubts, there some questions, that we try to explain. My impression is that to a certain extent it is generational and geographical. Young people living in Prague have complete enthusiasm and they are completely convinced. Of course, senior, retired people living outside Prague are those who require greater explanation. There is no rejection, but there is an element of doubt, an element of reserve, an element of uncertainty, which is very normal, considering that retired people will not be able due to biological reasons to profit from the great opportunities that the membership of the EU is going to bring to this country."

Do you think that people are more afraid of poverty or are they more afraid of changing Brussels for Moscow?

"Everybody knows very well and I repeat it permanently that Brussels is not like Moscow. The EU is a union of democratic, sovereign nations. It is qualitatively and quantitatively different to anything that existed before in the communist world hegemonised by the Soviet Union. I would like again to insist the Czech Republic has a right to join the EU, is invited to join the EU, has applied voluntarily to join the EU but it is not obliged at all to join the EU. It is a free decision of the Czech people that we will fully respect. And I don't think this kind of language was ever spoken from Moscow at all."

You said that the EU is very committed to expansion. Are you happy with the degree with which Czech politicians are committed to EU membership?

"Yes, I am. We have always recommended and asked for strong consensus on European Union matters and I am very pleased with the degree of consensus on EU matters that exists in the Czech Republic, in particular among the Czech political elite, among the Czech political representation."

And do you think that Czech citizens have enough information on what EU membership entails? I know you do a lot in this respect yourself. But do you think that in general they have enough information?

"I believe there is already a certain level of information which is acceptable, but I also believe there is room for improving the level of information of Czech citizens and this is what we are going to try to do in the next year."