Sobotka: Czechs would benefit from eurozone membership

The future looks red: Bohuslav Sobotka. [Wikimedia]

The Czech Republic would benefit from membership in the eurozone, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday (31 May) after meeting the president, finance minister and the Czech National Bank governor on the issue.

President Miloš Zeman, who organised the meeting at the Lany castle just outside Prague, had said he wanted a “rational” debate on euro adoption. Most Czechs reject the eurozone, beset in recent years by crisis focused on weaker south Euroepan economies, especially Greece.

Sobotka’s centre-left government, which is in charge of policymaking, supports the euro but has said it would not set any entry target date during its current term that runs until late 2017.

“I am personally convinced that strategic benefits for stability, employment and competitiveness of the Czech Republic outbalance possible negatives,” Sobotka said in a statement released after the meeting.

Sobotka’s Social Democrat party has agreed to aim for a 2020 entry, but his main coalition partner, the centrist ANO movement, has not endorsed any dates.

ANO founder and chairman Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said after the talks that he would favor a referendum on the issue, possibly held together with general elections in 2017.

The majority of Czechs who reject the single currency dropped to 69% in April from 76% in the same month last year, a poll conducted by the Academy of Sciences showed earlier in May.

The earliest possible date would be in 2020 due to the period of time – two years – an applicant country has to spend in the ante-room, the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Czechs committed to swapping their crowns for euros at a future date when they entered the European Union in 2004. In central Europe, only Slovakia has met the conditions and shown political will to join the eurozone so far.

The Czech National Bank (CNB), which only has an advisory role in the euro adoption, has criticised the common currency project, often saying it made a political sense rather than brought some economic advantages.

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