Brexit aftermath: Czech President Milos Zeman suggests referendum on EU, Nato exit

Czech President Milos Zeman (second from right) welcoming his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer on April 11, 2016.
Czech President Milos Zeman (second from right) welcoming his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer on April 11, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

PRAGUE (AFP) - Czech President Milos Zeman has called for a referendum on exiting the European Union and Nato, only a week after Britain voted to leave the EU, public radio said on Friday (July 1).

The move prompted leftist Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to rule out any such moves in the country of 10.5 million where a recent poll showed solid support for EU membership.

Zeman, also a leftist, insisted he himself would vote against leaving when he spoke with voters in a small Czech town on Thursday, Czech Radio said on its website.

"I disagree with those who are in favour of leaving the EU," the outspoken 71-year-old said.

"But I'll do my best to have a referendum so they can express themselves. The same goes for a Nato exit."

A statement issued by Sobotka's office on Friday said the Czech Republic sought "to be a member of EU and Nato, our membership of these organisations guarantees stability and security."

"The government is not planning any steps that would cast doubt on our membership... and it is not planning any referenda," he added.

Forty-nine per cent of Czechs support staying in the EU, while 34 per cent favour leaving, according to a June poll by the Median agency.

The Czech Republic, which joined the Nato Western defence alliance in 1999 and the EU in 2004, does not have a referendum law.

But in March, parliament began debating a referendum Bill that would need backing from 120 of 200 lawmakers to pass.

The Bill would give the green light to referendum proposals backed by at least 250,000 signatures.

However, it would not allow voters to decide on issues - such as an EU exit - that would lead the country to breach international obligations.