EU: Czechs, Sweden and Hungary unsure on summit deal

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While the UK wielded its veto, another three non-eurozone countries have expressed their reservations about the EU summit deal.

Although Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic have all agreed to consider taking part in the "fiscal compact" to save the eurozone, there is no clear sign yet that they will sign up.

Here, three correspondents consider what lies ahead:

Herman Melzer, EU correspondent, Swedish Radio

Swedes voted No in a referendum on joining the euro in 2003 and that is still on. There are no plans to join and this deal was designed for the euro countries which means that Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was a bit critical of it.

He did not oppose a treaty but was very hesitant for Sweden to join.

Start Quote

Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt (9 Dec 2011)

the whole text is written to make eurozone members submit to certain restrictions. A non-eurozone country can't reasonably sign up to that ”

End Quote Fredrik Reinfeldt Swedish Prime Minister

Above all, he would never do that on his own as Sweden has a minority government and he would have to have the support of the opposition Social Democrats.

Their party leader already said no last Friday, so my conclusion is that Sweden will not join this new intergovernmental deal.

But he did not oppose it in the way that Britain vetoed it. Sweden did not say you are not allowed to have a treaty and you can compare the way David Cameron and Fredrik Reinfeldt were treated.

It does not matter economically if Sweden stays out of the deal, but politically it will lose even more influence. There is already a europact that Sweden has not joined. Sweden has very strict budget rules already, such as a cap on spending.

From my interview with Mr Reinfeldt last Friday, I cannot make any conclusion other than this: he said that the new rules were for the eurozone countries and as Sweden is not in the euro, it is very hard for us to join rules aimed at the eurozone.

Of course it is very worrying for European co-operation that a big country such as the UK is drifting away. But for Sweden, the British prime minister's decision was not breaking news.

Nick Thorpe, BBC Budapest correspondent

"Thank you, David Cameron," thundered the headline in Saturday's Magyar Nemzet, a daily newspaper close to the governing centre-right Fidesz party in Hungary.

Start Quote

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (9 Dec 2011)

The best way is just to observe, wait, discuss the whole issues... and then decide in the Hungarian parliament"”

End Quote Viktor Orban Hungarian Prime Minister

The gratitude was due to what the commentator saw as the British prime minister's bravery in standing up to the French-German axis, and thereby winning the nine non-eurozone countries, minus Britain, time to think about whether they want to sign up to the new fiscal deal accepted by the 17 countries that already use the euro.

Last Friday, Hungary appeared briefly to be joining Britain with a steadfast "No", but later clarification showed no tangible difference between the Hungarian position and that of countries such as Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban will let parliament decide.

But in Hungary's case, parliament is sure to do what he tells it. Fidesz enjoys a solid two-thirds majority, allowing the party to push through a raft of radical reforms in many fields, from the country's brand-new constitution, to a new electoral law, and a spectacular re-organisation of local government.

On Tuesday an IMF mission arrives in Budapest for preliminary talks on Hungary's request for a flexible credit agreement.

If the Hungarian parliament refuses to sign up to the EU fiscal deal, it can say goodbye to IMF support, some commentators believe. Not so, say others. Defenders of the government say that while Fidesz rhetoric is anti-IMF and sometimes anti-EU, its actual policies are not.

From January, VAT will be 27% in Hungary, the highest in the EU. Harsh cut-backs in expenditures, and heavy taxation hurt the government's popularity, but could reassure sceptics that it is still in the European mainstream. "[Next year] we're going to need our umbrellas," Viktor Orban told a TV interviewer on Sunday night, adding: "We may well need our storm-coats as well."

"The Hungarian position is in substance the same as all the others," Peter Akos Bod, a former governor of the Hungarian National Bank told the BBC. He believes the government will recommend that parliament sign up to the deal next March.

Rob Cameron, BBC Prague correspondent

In Britain, and indeed much of the world, the outcome of last week's summit is being reported as "Britain stands alone as the EU splits 26:1".

Start Quote

Czech Prime Minister Pet Necas

It wasn't possible to sign up to this... nobody knows what's in it”

End Quote Petr Necas Czech Prime Minister

That is not quite the view here in the Czech Republic. Commentators have taken a more cautious - and arguably more accurate - view, reflecting the fact that the Czechs haven't signed up to anything yet.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas told his colleagues in Brussels he would have to seek parliamentary approval before his country could join the "fiscal compact". That's certainly true.

But afterwards Mr Necas offered Czech reporters a more important justification: "It wasn't possible to sign up to this international agreement for a number of reasons. But the main reason was this - nobody knows what's in it."

Which is not to say they won't sign up, eventually.

The Czechs might not use the euro but they're sympathetic to a number of ideas mooted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, including balanced budgets and automatic sanctions for those countries that borrow too much.

But Mr Necas also expressed concern at the potential loss of budgetary sovereignty, and the prospect of greater EU interference in Czech affairs - a fear shared by the Czech president, most Czech politicians and a good portion of the Czech public.

And it is important to remember one thing.

Many analysts are tracing the origins of David Cameron's "Britain Alone" policy to the Conservatives' defiant exit in 2009 from the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, the European People's Party.

The Tories left the EPP to create a new eurosceptic caucus, the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. And who was their chief ally in this enterprise? The Czech Civic Democrats. Present party leader: Petr Necas.

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