“My attitude towards the Euro is evolving”
The European Union is confronted with a migration influx. Is there any ideal solution? You are not a big supporter of quotas, are you?
Let’s look at the issue retrospectively. A year and half ago, the migration influx started to grow. At that time member states went for the migration quotas. However the real numbers were changing on daily basis, there were no other measures in place, migration was out of control and the EU drowning in unilateral steps. For this reason the quotas could not have the desired effect, you do not start by relocation of refugees at a time when protection of external border is non-existent, return policy does not work or incoming migrants re not being identified. And obviously it has not. We should keep in mind that this issue falls in Member States competence and many of these wanted effective measures and not a measure which led to dividing the EU. There are limits to the absorption capacity of the EU and the capability of integrating a certain number of refugees and there are limits for each individual Member States as well. I stand for solidarity with those member states that are severely affected. However, we need to have migration under control and have to know the real numbers we are talking in before taking any action. The distribution of quotas, or rather refugees, is one of the steps to be taken at the right time and rather on voluntary basis. The main focus has to be on the situation in the home countries of the refugees. We have to motivate them to stay there. We should invest in these countries, provide people with safety and security, education, jobs and so on. If the need be and if invited to do so also intervene in managing a conflict. Systemic measures are the objective. Migration has to change from illegal to legal, we need to provide protection to real refugees as well as safeguard security of our own citizens. Having said that, I would rather prefer to address the causes of migration.
We cannot ignore the pressure of western countries on the CEE region to converge to their salaries. We see it strongly in posting of workers. Do we need the convergence at any price?
Definitely not. The salaries are linked to the economic situation and social environment, GDP is not an irrelevant category. We also have to ensure the sustainability for investors who invested in our countries according to certain conditions. At the same time, we have to recognize that some activities which are not completely in line with the rules take place and the conditions of posted workers are sometimes beyond the limits of being acceptable, in fact we might not even speak of them being posted, at least in some sectors. Reactions of some member states have been translated into unilateral measures which are not in line with the internal market rules. The Mobility package presented by the European Commission at the end of May represents an effort to align the internal market. The question is whether it will reach an optimal situation and whether it is itself balanced. I would argue for a solution which will ensure consistent rules with legal certainty and low administrative burden. One legal framework is needed though I do not hide that the proposal will divide the House (European Parliament).
ALDE Group requires that all members of Eurozone should have one representative in the international economic institutions who would also be a member of the European commission. What is your view on the Euro?
My attitude towards the Euro is evolving. When entering the EU we could not negotiate an opt-out of the Euro like Denmark did as it was a member state at the time of negotiating the Maastricht Treaty. Now, we should work on better economic governance in the Eurozone. Our preparedness must be sustainable, as I believe it now is. In the past, the politicians decided that there was no will to join euro. Now it is time to reopen the issue in the Czech Republic and lead a discussion with the wider public about the pros and cons of being part of the Eurozone. Me personally, I would like to intensify this debate. It is an important topic for the next government after the parliamentary elections later this year. Hopefully.
Should the Czech Republic be part of the hard core of the EU?
There is no other alternative then to have influence and if there is to be a core, then one should aim for having influence on it. But we should not create barriers and draw lines. The aim of the new government should be to be more mature, take initiatives on relevant issues at EU level, be constructive and be in regular contact with other EU heads of states. Let me though say that we should avoid an artificial construction of a core. It is clear that at a certain point in time we will have many issues on the table and there we will see what is acceptable for us and what is not. This will shape our position within the EU.
The UK is leaving. Do you perceive it as a threat to the EU project or as a natural evolution? What form of economic cooperation with the UK would be the best for the EU?
It is not a threat to the project. If it should weaken the EU, then it means that the European project is really weak. And that is not the case. The negotiations might be difficult and they might create tensions among member states and bring problems. Now we start the negotiations on the divorce and later about future cooperation. Within two years, we have to solve the most important issues and be aware of potential impacts. Of course I would welcome if the UK would stay in the internal market or in Customs union but we know that the British go for the so called hard Brexit. Therefore the most probable form of cooperation will be the free trade agreement supplemented by bilateral sector cooperation in whatever treaty form. I would argue for a strong cooperation on defence, education and R&D and others.
Do you think that TTIP still has a chance to survive?
There is a lack of consistency in Trump’s decisions and therefore it is more difficult to anticipate his further steps, both domestically and vis-à-vis international partners. That leads me to more sceptical speculations. But I am an optimistic person. I deem that the US business will be aware of the impact because in TTIP there are many positive aspects for US business. The negotiations might go back to the point where they were at the time of US elections. The strategic partnership at a global level in creating regulatory order to confront the practices that are not always optimal might be the trigger effect of the negotiations. TTIP could be a great strategy towards third partners such as China. I know there are many supporters of the EU – US agreement on the US side but it seems Trump’s a paradox.
In mid-June new rules on roaming will apply. It is a great achievement for the European Parliament. What else does the EU plan for its citizens within the digital single market strategy?
There are many new initiatives that we are working on. The consumers will benefit from new rules of geo-blocking at the beginning of 2018. They will be able to shop online without being blocked because of their geographic location. In May, the European Parliament has also adopted new rules which will enable the citizens to have access to their prepaid online services like subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when travelling within the EU. I am fed up with being blocked from seeing a rugby match when traveling. This will be a great achievement. We have also progressed on the proposal of 5G deployment. At the end of May, the European Union institutions agreed to set aside 120 million euros to provide free wireless internet connections by 2020 for up to 8,000 municipalities in the EU in areas with no internet coverage. The Czech Republic has to focus more on the digital economy, not only industry but also the government. We lag behind Estonia by 15 years. We are still the country where the goods are assembled and not created.
Thank you for the interview!
By Alena Mastantuono
Pavel Telička graduated from the Law Faculty at the Charles University in Prague in 1986. His professional activities started at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1991-1995, he held different positions at the Czechoslovak/Czech Mission to the European Communities in Brussels, including Deputy Head and Head of Mission. He served as a Chief Negotiator for the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union and as a State Secretary for European Affairs. In 2002, he took up the post of Ambassador and Head of the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union. He was the first Czech Commissioner though very shortly. Afterwards, Telicka set up BXL Consulting Ltd, an EU Affairs consultancy. In July 2014 he was elected to the European Parliament (ALDE/ ANO 2011) and in 2017 he was elected the Vice-President of the European Parliament. He is keen on sports and healthy lifestyle.