Three-quarters of Czechs want EU referendum

In the wake of the recent Irish referendum and subsequent rejection of the European Union's enlargement plans, both politicians and the media are closely monitoring every gauge of public opinion towards the expansion process. Peter Smith reports.

This is as much the case in the candidate countries as in the existing EU member states, and a new survey this week in the Czech Republic has revealed a weakening of support for entry among those traditionally in favour. The poll, conducted by the STEM agency, also revealed that around three-quarters of Czechs believe that they should be given the chance to vote in a referendum on the issue, and that two-thirds would vote for entry.

Since November of last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sponsored a number of programmes and initiatives aimed at increasing Czech public awareness of the European Union. There has been a toll-free number to answer queries and provide information, a special website and an EU awareness programme for schoolchildren and students.

The programme rounds off this week with an international conference examining the role that profitable organisations and NGOs have to play in facilitating Czech entry to the EU. It was there that RP's Peter Smith spoke to Marek Sedivy, the Executive Director of the Information Centre for Non-profit Organisations, and asked him to gauge the Czech public's interest in the EU debate.

Marek Sedivy: From the experience of the project and from other experiences, I can say that people are a little bit tired lately, so maybe that was the idea of the project - to initiate the interest of the public.

Radio Prague: Are they not interested because it seems to be political?

MS: Yeah, I think that's the reason because all the information is too political, so we were trying to do a different style of spreading the information to the public during the project. '30 Days for the Non-Profit Sector' which was the media campaign for non-profit organisations and civil society in the Czech Republic - in February - so that was a big action. The team was the European Union also, and we got the Green Line which was financed from the ministry project.

RP: From what you've seen, what are most Czech people worried about - the most common question that you receive about the European Union?

MS: I know that it's not good to say this, but it's the money - they are interested to see if the salaries go up, or about retirement - there were a lot of questions about retirement. About possibilities to work in the European Union and to travel - free - without the borders and things like that.