In recent weeks, Czech politicians have distanced themselves from the European Union. Concern about the financial crisis has led a number of politicians to encourage the idea that the Czech Republic does not need the EU and that the country should not be involved in solving European problems. This behavior is particularly troubling, largely because it ignores the numerous gains the Czech Republic has made since joining the EU.
In response, I, along with thirteen other business and NGO leaders, published an open letter calling on the government, the Parliament, and the public not to forget the numerous benefits that EU membership has bestowed on our country. We hope that this letter can serve as a reminder of the progress the Czech Republic has made since joining the EU: progress like increased economic growth and vastly improved quality of life.
All of us agree that the Czech Republic’s membership in the EU is that best thing that has happened to the country in the last decade. Before joining the EU, our proximity to a united Europe helped push through important business, justice, and public administration-related reforms. Once a member, we became part of a community that shares the values of freedom and rule-of-law, and the belief that the role of government is to enhance the common well-being of citizens.
While people may disagree with the handling of the crisis in Europe, our country is fully able to participate in the decision making process. Certainly, the Czech Republic plays a role that corresponds to our size and importance; but our voice is—and will continue to be—influential, as long as it remains thoughtful, constructive, and confident.
The EU guarantees Member States increased security and helps to maintains good relations with our neighbors. But membership has other practical benefits as well. The EU has opened a large trade market for Czech business and our economy has grown rapidly. Although EU funds have their problems they also helped our country to repair its schools and town squares, revitalize villages, clean rivers, support local businesses, create new jobs, and build better transportation. Today, with only an identity card in hand, we can travel freely across the continent without border controls, and live and work in other Member States. All in all, both our country and our citizens have become a true part of western democratic Europe.
If we want to continue to take advantage of these benefits we must embrace the new opportunities that arise from membership. The Czech Parliament and Czech Government must do everything they can to ensure that our country remains in the core of the European Union.
Just as in life, we cannot expect that everything will always work perfectly. People are losing their jobs and many countries are struggling with their debt. But together we are trying to find a common solution. We must be a reliable member in both the bad times and the good. Otherwise we will lose the most important thing in a healthy relationship: mutual trust.