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November 18, 2019
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Commentary: Czech Foreign Minister is all over the map when it comes to the issue of freedom of movement - why?

28.3.2017 11:04
The new leadership of the Czech Social Democratic Party, 2017. (PHOTO: ČSSD)
The new leadership of the Czech Social Democratic Party, 2017. (PHOTO: ČSSD)

My favorite demagogue, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, is once again shining like a supernova in the night sky. He has declared war on the free movement of persons on the labor market inside the European Union.

His moves are just the latest concession being made by the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) to the hysteria being sparked by that part of society who lean toward solutions offered by the ultra-right. The party is again shifting significantly rightward.

Zaorálek's "Czexit"

When the advocates of Brexit in hte United Kingdom, prior to the referendum on the country leaving the EU, went to war against workers from Central Europe (including Czechs) the Foreign Minister was a convinced advocate of the free movement of labor within the EU. Now in an interview with the daily Hospodářské noviny he is saying the absolute opposite:  "When two million people arrive from the East who take your jobs, your welfare, and many other things, then you can try a thousand times to convince your own citizens that they should just get used to it, but they won't accept that, because you've simply blown it and not told them he truth."

According to the Foreign Minister, now "we must rationally regulate labor force movements and fight the policy of cheap labor. The free movement of people is the basis of the EU, but we must reflect on how to regulate the labor market, how to fight social dumping, so the single market doesn't go against EU citizens."

Workers "from the East", according to the available data, are not taking jobs away either from Brits in the UK or from Czechs in the Czech Republic, because these workers are doing jobs that Brits and Czechs do not want to do for the pay offered. When they work, they are not drawing welfare.

If foreign nationals do not work, they lose their visas and must leave the country, so even in that case they don't draw welfare. The Foreign Minister was most probably speaking of asylum-seekers, who have almost nothing in common with workers "from the East".

According to Zaorálek, today "citizens are no longer acknowledging that some force external to their own state will dictate something there. The situation is similar in our country. People believe that nobody can prescribe for us whom we are to have in our country, and we must respect the will of the people," he said, making sure to also criticize the EU leadership for not listening to "the people".

NeoZaorálek and the neo-Marxists

The Foreign Minister's idea will doubtless head in the direction of EU ties loosening and subsequently collapsing. "If we were to take that step, it would lead to disintegration. It would not stay an isolated example. I am surprised that a Social Democratic minister is speaking the same language as the most orthodox advocates of Brexit among the British conservatives. The Czech Republic has its interests in the EU, and the free movement of labor is one of them," said Czech MEP Pavel Telička, the Vice-Chair of the European Parliament who has a great deal of experience with how the EU works - probably the most experience of anybody in this country - to Hospodářské noviny.

NeoZaorálek's brand of new opinions are indistinguishable from the neo-Marxist political scientist Petr Robejšek, who lives in Germany and is on a crusade against "elites" because they allegedly refused to "listen to the masses (the people)". Yes, some people actually believe that nobody from the outside should prescribe anything to us - they want the Czech Republic to leave the European Union - and they are a tangible minority in this country.

Then there are people here who are glad to adopt some EU decisions and directives as our own and others, not. Lastly, there are people who know the Czech Republic, as a member of the EU, should abide by its decisions because the Czech Republic itself participates in making them.

Most people in this country fall into the second and third categories. Since that is the case, references to the "masses" or the "people" are an outstanding example of demagoguery - whether from Robejšek, Zaorálek, or other pretenders to the "Order of the Red Flag".

Immoderate followers of Sládek

Czech President Miloš Zeman once said of the Republican Party led by Sládek (an ultra-right extremist in the 1990s) that it was an example of Social Democrats gone "rogue". Today we can say the Social Democrats are becoming more and more like the less immoderate followers of Sládek.

Remarkable ideas are being birthed from the womb of this domestic party, testifying not just to the fact that the elections are approaching, but to the fact that the Social Democrats are willing to do anything to preserve their power, including betraying their own traditional values. The antigypsyist, antisocial remarks of some Social Democats over time (most of them spoken right before an election), Czech Interior Minister Chovanec's revival of the People's Militia (each man must have a weapon in the pantry), the illegal imprisonment of people in detention centers (prison for foreign nationals), the mass Social Democratic feats of mountain climbing into the rectums of China and Russia, the reduction of social welfare for the needy, the inability to uphold a social housing program in a form that would actually aid people, the rejection of aid to refugees fleeing war, not allowing them to stay for the necessary time... this and much more testifies to a drastic shift to the right by the ČSSD.

Now, in the spirit of that movement rightward, the party has arrived at the point of rejecting the basic mechanisms and values on which the European Union stands, and the free movement of labor is undoubtedly one of them. Let's recall how much it bothered us when the Austrians and Germans restricted the movement of Czech workers for seven years after we joined the EU.

The existing extent of the free movement of labor and people within the EU was always a priority for us, one defended by all the cabinets we have ever had here, irrespective of the ideology they professed. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka most recently repeated that just last month:  "The free movement of labor and services is something we understand to be an important condition for preserving competitiveness within the European Union."

The Czech Foreign Minister himself was saying we needed to preserve all of these freedoms as recently as December, so what has happened since then that would be so serious as to make him pivot 180 degrees on the issue? We don't know, but it doesn't make sense.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Evropská unie, Politika, Foreign policy, freedom



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