Czech Republic: Nation of Sceptics?

Visit to the Metro Depot

In Prague we were met by the representative of the Youth for Public Transport (Y4PT). Together with our partner we are trying to raise an awareness among the young people about the most sustainable and the most environmentally friendly ways of travelling. Especially for our journey, Y4PT developed a Carbon Emission Calculator that helps our followers to track the impact our journey has on environment. In the Czech capital Y4PT invited us to visit the oldest Depot of Prague – Kačerov  to experience first-hand how does the maintenance of the city’s transport centre looks like and why do people in Prague prefer to use public transport?

Metro Depot Kačerov provides services for more than 50 trains on the red line of the Prague’s metro system and is one of the biggest in the Czech Republic. As passengers, we hardly ever think about how much effort and resources is put into maintaining and keeping our public transport safe. It was explained to us that one of the main goals of the Dopravní podnik hlavního města Prahy, a public transit company in charge of running all of the means of the transportation in the capital, is to make travelling accessible­ and most of all comfortable for the passengers. In Prague more than 55% of all the journeys are done via public transport, explained to us the Head of the External Relations. As long as the system functions properly young people will be more prone to use trams, busses and metro thus limiting their usage of the private cars. This will not only help to slow down the effects of the climate change, it will also make our cities much more pleasant to live in.

An Outlier

Another question that had to be answered during our stay in Prague was why are the Czechs so Eurosceptical? In fact, according to the recent study of the Republikon Institute, the Czech Republic is the most Eurosceptical nation in the Central and Eastern Europe. It is not very surprising to see United Kingdom at the top of the list, but why does the Czech Republic, located in the heart of Europe, has 43-46% of Eurosceptics is an intriguing question. When we asked young people in Mannheim what they think is the reason for this, there was only one person willing to explain why Czechs stand out (read more City of the Squares). It is the time to finally ask Czechs, what they think about the European Union and where is this national Euroscepticism coming from.

The discussion took place at the VŠE, Prague’s well known University of Economics. The Rektor, Prof. Ing. Hana Machková, welcomed us by introducing the University and its external relations. The workshop soon turned into discussion and participants were actively engaged in answering questions such as: what is Euroscepticism and which factors in their daily life have an effect on the way they view the European Union. Some believed it was studies, others pro-EU student organizations and opportunity to live and travel abroad. Jana Pokorna explained that her views are strongly affected by the legislature coming from Brussels. Often these new laws are not fair to the Czech people, thus this creates a strong resistance.

IMG_9723Generally speaking the discussion about Europtimism in Prague often reminded us that of Mannheim, yet there were some significant differences. Whereas the image of the EU among the participants in Mannheim was rather positive, young people in Prague have neither strongly positive nor strongly negative feelings towards the EU. It is of course not scientifically correct to generalize on the basis of such small and non-representative sample but it does seem to us that the scepticism in the Czech Republic is stronger than in Germany. So how did our participants explain this phenomenon? Some of them believe that the EU is limiting freedoms of the Czechs and this is something that goes against the Czech mentality. Czechs have learned very painful lessons from the Czech history and they are afraid to be taken over by more powerful players.  Another participant, Adnan suggested that such high level of Euroscepticism among Czechs might be a result of the scepticism of the former President of the Czech Republic – Vaclav Klaus. It took a lot of effort for the EU officials and leaders of the EU member states to convince Mr. Klaus to sing the Lisbon Treaty. He was the last president of the 27 member states to sign this historical treaty. With the new pro-European President Miloš Zeman the situation might be changing for better, think students.

The difference between young people in Mannheim and those in Prague were also noticeable in the way they answered the question about the future of the EU. Should the EU get more powers, less we preserve the status quo? Most of the students in Prague wanted to preserve status quo or to limit the powers of the EU (read answers of the students in Mannheim here). The EU should not be interfering in our daily life, it should not tell us how a marmalade or a cucumber should look like, exclaimed one of the students.