The ‘Free Citizen’s Party’ – Setting the Czech citizens completely free as of today?

Monday, 12. January 2009     0 comment(s)
Tiia Lehtonen
Researcher - The European Union research programme

A new anti-Lisbon Treaty party – the Free Citizen’s Party (Strana Svobodnych Obcanu, SSO) – associated closely with Czech President Václav Klaus and established by the Centre of Economy and Politics think tank head, Petr Mach, will be launched in Czech Republic today in order to break with the ruling party’s perceived excessively positive attitude towards the EU reform Treaty. Mr. Mach is expected to introduce the party’s preparatory committee and to describe in detail its programme. The Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has recently announced that his party and its deputies will support the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Parliamentary vote that will be taken next month, whereas the new SSO party will continue campaigning against final ratification. The two parties began as branches growing from the same original tree, but now the similarities between them are only in their mutual support for two domestically sensitive issues: free markets and low taxation.

Unlike originally anticipated, the SSO party will not campaign in the European Parliament elections in alliance with its fellow Euro-sceptics: the new Irish party of Libertas. What then is the principal difference between these two movements and their anti-Lisbon ideologies? According to the SSO founder Petr Mach, it is more crucial to have a focus on national politics, while the leader of the Irish Libertas, Declan Ganley, has stated he has pan-European ambitions and prefers to make Europe-wide interventions. The aim of the Free Citizen’s Party is certainly to campaign in the EP elections too, but its primary aim is to get recognized in Czech politics as a rival to the ruling Civic Democrat Party, ODS. However, Mr. Mach indicated that his party would yet be willing to cooperate with any potential Libertas MEPs in Brussels in order to oppose the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. It has also been the argument of both that the Lisbon Treaty particularly harms the member states of the EU by decreasing their power in a number of decision-making areas as a result of removing the national veto rights. Moreover, it has already been asserted by Mach that he will give his fullest support to another Irish “No” campaign, as the Treaty itself has gone through only cosmetic changes.

The anti-European bodies will most probably succeed to reserve an appropriate advertising space at the upcoming EP campaign, and their chief ideas – be they populist or not – will get properly communicated to the wider public. In linguistic terms, there is an interesting correspondence between the groupings of ‘Libertas’ and ‘Free Citizen’s Party’, as both refer to freedom and acts of releasing someone from somewhere – freedom from constraint, compulsion and control, or freedom to choose, decide, talk and act? With a view to history, the inclusion of these connotations to the names of the parties is hardly a novel phenomenon and their etymology has certainly been thoroughly examined, yet, it is as such interesting to observe how they now appear in the European public spheres prior to the EP elections and Lisbon countdown. A detailed linguistic analysis goes well beyond the scope of an individual blog entry, but it is something worthy of further investigation. How do European citizens cognitively map these nascent eurosceptic movements and what influence are their eventual names – and aims – expected to have on the perception or understanding of their fundamental raison d’être, the Lisbon treaty? What criteria have been applied when labelling the movements and what messages do these rather symbolic titles send?

There is five months to go before the European Parliament elections and another six months to the end of the Czech Presidency. Given that Declan Ganley will continue with his plans to set up a Libertas branch in the Czech Republic – and in many other EU countries – ever more eurosceptic parties, groupings and movements are expected to emerge. A great amount of talks of whatever joint forces and collective battles can still be held, high-profile campaigners recruited and the outcomes seem to be at best uncontrollable. To conclude, I am very much looking forward to the establishment of the parties such as ‘Ultimate Civil Liberty’, ‘Release from the EU Control’, ‘Emancipatus’ or ‘Freedom from Democracy’. Since a ram in a green field symbolizing a path to freedom and signalling a brand new beginning, is the logo of the Free Citizen’s Party, more innovations also in this regard are expected. What about a heavenly light directed exclusively inside the boundaries of a nation state shedding maximum political satisfaction and anti-European fulfilment to its citizens?

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