New survey shows rising support for EU membership

Czechs in EU

A new survey was released on Monday by the European Commission and Gallup, into support for membership among the 13 candidates for accession. Events in recent weeks, in particular a controversial speech by parliament speaker Vaclav Klaus at the European Parliament, had cast doubt on Czech support for membership. But as the new survey has shown, most Czechs themselves do want to join. Jan Velinger has more.

The numbers are in on the latest Eurobarometer survey, organised by the European Commission and the Gallup Institute. The poll showed that 54 percent of Czechs would vote "yes" in a referendum on membership, with only 18 percent saying explicitly they would vote against. As it stands the Czech Republic ranks just behind Slovenia in terms of support for accession, on a ladder which is topped by Romania and Bulgaria - two countries that are not even being considered for entry in the first wave. We put the results of the survey to the test on the streets of Prague, and found most people in favour of joining:

"I would vote 'yes' but I think everybody will vote yes. But do they know why? I don't think so..."

"I would definitely vote, I would definitely say 'yes', because I think it is important for the people to be members of the EU, and I think it is a natural thing and there is no doubt that we should be there, and I think it is good for everyone to be part of this community."

"Yeah. I think we belong to Europe and I think that we should take part in Europe as members."

We did find, however, that while most wanted in, some wanted the politicians to decide.

"I am against a referendum, having a responsible member of parliament responsible, we won't have the referendum because I have given my vote to the member of parliament and it's their responsibility to go to the European Union. It's not the responsibility of the people sitting in the inns and drinking beer - they don't understand it."

One area where the Eurobarometer found the Czech Republic lacking was the low level of awareness concerning the role of EU institutions. According to the numbers, only 68 percent of Czechs had heard of the European Parliament, and even less, 51 percent, had ever heard of the European Commission.

"Of course I know it...Or Do they do the European Commission. It is not only one I think, so there are the professional commissions, yes, sitting in Brussels?"

"European Commission... must be the commission which joins every country, and which represent each country who join? I don't know..."

"Yes...yes I know that this is one of the highest committees that have some rights... and I know that Mr Prodi is a member..."

So who's responsible for raising public awareness of what the EU is and what it does? Most people agreed the government should take a more active role.

"Well I would say definitely the government, I mean the state executive..."

"The government of course, Mr Telicka and his friends."

"I think the people themselves."

"Here in Czech? The European Commission then...they should explain, they should explain or at least inform the politicians here, and then they spread it around to all the people."