Study: Young Czechs are overwhelmingly “mild EU supporters”

Survey called "Divided by Europe"

With European Parliament elections around the corner, Czechs are gearing up to head to the polls. But how do Czechs, specifically younger ones, feel about the EU and Czechia’s membership? That’s a question that Czech Radio reporter Anna Urbanová set out to answer based on data from a new study, and I spoke with her about it in our studios.

Anna Urbanová | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,

“We are talking about a project called Divided by Europe, which is a survey conducted for Czech Radio. This part of the survey focussed on young Czechs aged 18-29, the so called ‘EU Generation’. These people were born into non-communist Czechia that was already apart of western structures. The most important trends we observed amongst young Czechs are that the EU is a natural part of western structures, and that the EU is a part of Czechs character – that they can’t imagine that Czechia wouldn’t be a part of the EU. For example, 78 percent of young people would vote in favour of remaining in a hypothetical referendum.”

What are the factors that inform the positivity towards the EU? Is it education, socio-economic background, or just the fact that this generation has grown up being a part of the EU?

“Those factors would be additional, the main factor that really dictates EU sentiment is the relationship that individuals have built towards the EU. This is not exclusive to the younger generation, but to all of Czech society. Whenever people feel like they are better or worse off because of the EU, their relationship to it changes. If he or she possibly blames the EU for their personal failures, the relationship they build would be negative.

Photo: Kristýna Maková,  Radio Prague International

“We can see that Czechs are divided into six groups when it comes to support of the EU: Euro enthusiasts, Euro supporters, mild Euro supporters, uncertain, Euro opposers, and hard-line Euro opposers. Euro supporters in the whole of Czech society account for less than 10 percent, and in the younger generation it’s 10 percent, so it’s just a small difference there. The mild Euro supporters in all of society are 21 percent, and in the younger generation it’s 30 percent. The younger generation tends to be mild EU supporters.”

When you say “mild supporter”, what does that mean exactly?

“It means that they like the EU, but they can still see that there are some disadvantages, and they are more critical towards politics. Not only EU politics, but also towards Czech policy in the EU. They overall really like the EU, but they also see some space where a better position could be created for Czechia.”

Of course within the EU there are the larger “power house” countries like France and Germany. Is there in anyway a sense that Czechs have an inferiority complex about their position in the EU because it’s a much smaller country?

“It’s an interesting question. This is a narrative that is common for all of society, but it’s less common when we talk about the younger generation. They feel that they are a part of the EU, but less so that Czechia is a part of the EU, and often feel that Czech politicians could represent their voices better. The younger generation is also more certain that Czechia could be a part of the solutions that the EU creates.”

Elections to the European Parliament | Photo: European Council,  Council of the European Union

EU elections are coming up in June. Based on this study, are there any indications on how young Czechs might vote?

“We can’t say that young people would vote only for pro-European parties or coalitions. We have to keep in mind that there is also a group of hard line Euro opposers; we can’t say that the young generation is totally Euro-federalist. There are some important advantages and disadvantages that young people have listed when it comes to Czechia’s membership in the EU.

“Advantages include opportunities to travel, study, and work abroad. Disadvantages include pressure to adapt the euro, lack of protection against migration, and pressure for a green transformation. We know that green policy is something that is more important for the younger generation than the whole of society, but we can see that if the policy was too strong from the EU, the younger generation wouldn’t be happy. So these are important points to consider.”