We’re in the final stretch before Saturday’s Mega Euro Party Å ou (or whatever it’s called) celebrating the Czechs’ accession to the European Union, and I got a letter from home asking what it means:
Hey I heard about the Czechs joining the EU. So will you be switching to the Euro now? Is that going to mean any changes in day to day life?
Well, they won’t be joining the Euro until they can meet the budget requirements (I think the big one is deficit under 3 percent of GDP), which will probably happen in about 5 years maaaaybe, I’d guess.
From what I read in the papers, things are kinda hectic in stores leading up to Saturday because the entire value-added-tax system has been entirely overhauled, and badly. Products that had a 5 percent VAT (something like a sales tax) will go to 19 percent, except for the ones that don’t. But some other things will get cheaper because the import duties disappear.
In short, sugar, bananas and Internet get more expensive, but French and Italian wines and imported chocolate drop their price by 1/3. Woohoo! Wine and chocolate are two of the four basic food groups, no?
Aside from that, they’ll still have border controls for some time to come. They’ll gradually dismantle the border controls at the German, Austrian, Polish and Slovak borders maaaybe in a few years.
Our prosperous German-speaking neighbors are still worried about immigration, so they’ll be checking people’s passports, but I hear they won’t be looking into your trunk unless you look really suspicious.
In a few years, when the Czechs – and the others – sign the Schengen agreement, then it’ll be kinda like the Nevada-California border. The Austrians and Germans need to be convinced first that there won’t be a flood of Slavic immigrant laborers knocking down their doors looking for ill-paid construction work. Which is completely ludicrous if you’ve ever tried to hire someone from the other side of town even.
What else will it mean? The Czechs are electing their representatives to the European Parliament. We’ll have 26 of them. Like Mary Carey in California, we have a porn star running for office by the name of Dolly Buster, and plus a few discredited thug byznyzmani from the days of Wild East capitalism.
The Czech-Slovak split – and the currency split especially – was waaay weirder. All the while there was this undercurrent that if the Velvet Divorce this didn’t work, it was going to be like Yugoslavia.
Accession has a feeling of resigned smugness about it: “Ahh, we did it. This is great. But honey, did you hoard enough sugar for the next five years? Damned bureaucrats in Brussels…”
So that’s a long way of saying that there’s not a whole lot of visible changes. I figure the changes will be subtle but unstoppable. The hope – and the fear – is that in a few years this place will be just like Belgium, but with knedliky.