Only 44 percent Czechs say 'yes' to EU membership

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If a referendum was held now, slightly less than half of Czech voters would support their country's planned membership of the European Union. A recent survey, carried out by the CVVM polling agency has revealed that some 44 percent out of 2,000 adults polled would vote for the EU. Alena Skodova has more:

I spoke with Adela Seidlova from CVVM, who told me that this had not come as a surprise, and that there were two separate questions her agency asked its respondents:

"The first one is who supports the Czech Republic's preparations for EU membership, and here the number of positive answers is always much higher - between 55 and 58 percent. This number is also very often used for statistics in newspapers. But when we ask people how would they vote if a referendum was held tomorrow, the number of positive answers goes down substantially. However, 44 percent of EU supporters has been a stable number for some time now, so it's a change neither for the better or the worse."

When asked what were the main reservations of Czechs with regard to EU membership, Mrs. Seidlova said it was more a case of worries than reservations:

"People most often fear that after the Czech Republic joins the EU, they will get the same salaries as they have now, but prices will go up to the level usual in the EU countries. They are equally worried that the Czech national identity might be limited substantially, and the third - and a very significant factor - is people's fears of Czech firms and small companies being swallowed by big multinational companies."

But the economy is often cited as the main reason the Czech Republic should join the EU, and there are even more people saying 'yes' to the EU for economic reasons than those who are opposed to it. Those who see the Czech Republic's EU membership as a bad thing are in the majority.

And how do Czechs look at the European Union as an institution? They distinguish between the idea of European integration and the current accession process. Only a third of respondents evaluate EU policy and activities positively. Czech people assess favourably such values as democracy, cooperation, solidarity and tolerance, but when it comes to justice and equality, they are rather skeptical.

I've carried out a little survey here at Radio Prague, and about 90 percent of my colleagues would vote in favour of EU membership. Zdenek from the Czech and Marketa from the German section of Radio Prague represent two main opinions: The Czech Republic is a leading candidate for EU membership, expected to complete its accession requirements next year and join the union in January 2004.