The Czech Republic may choose to follow Britain out of the European Union, the country’s prime minister said, amid growing fears in Brussels of a “contagion”.
Bohuslav Sobotka said that a “Czexit” may take place. The Czech Republic only joined the EU in 2004 and has been the beneficiary of billions in development funds, but has some of the most hostile public opinion.
A Brussels decision to force the country to take in a quota of migrants caused fury. Three-fifths of Czechs said they were unhappy with EU membership and 62 percent said they would vote against it in a referendum, according to an October 2015 poll by the STEM agency.
“If Britain leaves the EU, we can expect debates about leaving the EU in a few years too,” said Mr Sobotka, who led eastern European states in opposition to David Cameron’s plans to curb benefits.
“The impact may be really huge,” he said, adding that a “Czexit” could trigger an economic and security downturn and a return to the Russian sphere of influence.
Such a move “would be an absolute negation of the developments after 1989”, he said, referring to the revolution of Czechoslovakia that threw off Soviet rule.
There are fears in Brussels that the multiple crises of Brexit, migration and the euro mean that 2016 will prove to be the high-water mark of the European project, in which it becomes plain that the vision of a fully federalised EU state will never be reached.
And leaders fear that Mr Cameron will trigger a string of copy-cat referendums from ambitious leaders who want to extract special concessions from Brussels, pulling the bloc to pieces.
Meanwhile, Aleksander Vucic, the Serbian Prime Minister said that EU membership is no longer the “big dream it was in the past” for Balkan states..
“The EU that all of us are aspiring to, it has lost its magic power,” Mr Vucic told a conference at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London.
“Yes we all want to join, but it is no longer the big dream it was in the past.”
“When you see that in Britain at least 50 percent of the people say they want to leave that has an effect on the public,” he said.
Seven states are in the queue to join the EU under a new wave of enlargement, that will not take place before 2019: Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Turkey and Macedonia. Membership could take years for some, as they are gripped by corruption, cronyism and sky-high unemployment, according to the EU’s own assessment reports.