Czechs may seek observer seat at beefed-up Eurogroup

Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaorálek [Council]

The Czech Republic may try to get an observer seat at the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers if its decision-making powers are boosted under plans to reshape the European Union, the foreign minister said on Monday (21 August).

European leaders are pondering reforms in response to Brexit, a process that could pick up speed after the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president, and after German election in September.

Fostering more integration between eurozone countries could mean those outside of the single currency zone would have no seat at the decision-making table, while still having to live with consequences affecting the whole union.

For the Czechs, who do not use the euro and have no intention of adopting it soon, this would risk them being left in the dark on some key decisions. Being at the table while not joining the euro fully, at least for the time being, could limit that downside.

“I support having an observer status in the eurozone,” Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek said in emailed comment to Reuters after the plan was reported by Czech weekly Respekt on Monday.

“It is undoubtedly beneficial for us to have the possibility to take part in their meetings and thus have a direct insight into the governance of the eurozone.”

The Czech move follows a rather surprising announcement by Slovak PM Robert Fico, who said his country would stick to the EU’s core. Unlike the Czech Republic, Slovakia has been member of the eurozone since 2009.

Fico ends coalition crisis, insists Slovakia should stick to EU’s core

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico struck a deal on Tuesday (15 August) to keep his three-party coalition in power, ending a week-long crisis triggered when a Eurosceptic junior partner threatened to quit.

A Czech government source said the idea was part of a Czech position paper on EU reform. It said Czech diplomats would be asked to sound out EU partners, including non-euro members such as Sweden, about the idea.

The Czech Republic has an obligation to eventually adopt the euro, but it does not have a concrete plan on when it will do so and opinion polls show a solid majority of the public is against joining.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has spoken in favour of preparing an adoption plan after an election due in October but the favourite to win, the ANO movement, has in the past months spoken against euro adoption.