Tomorrow, 30 June, marks the formal end to the six-month term of the Czech Republic as European Union president, as Sweden takes over the next day for the second half of 2009. In reality, though, the Czech presidency effectively came to an end a bit earlier than that, namely on March 24, as Kilian Kirchgeßner points out in his analysis of that presidency for the Frankfurter Rundschau (Well, it wasn’t a complete flop). For that was the day that the Czech Civic Democratic (ODS) government, headed by premier Mirek Topolánek, was booted out of office in a vote of no-confidence by the lower house of the Czech parliament.
Check out that article title again (with whose translation I promise I took only very slight liberties), though: could someone kindly e-mail to me the German expression for “damn with faint praise”? Kirchgeßner’s purpose here is clearly to bend over backwards to cast the Czech presidency in the best-possible light. His piece’s very first sentence (i.e. after the lede) is “Probably no country has encountered such hostility during its EU presidency as the Czech Republic,” going on to cite all the EU and other national officials (especially the French) who cast doubt on the Czechs’ very competence to handle the assignment, and who continued to cruelly snipe at them thereafter – mostly behind-the-scenes, of course. What is more, it turned out to be a tough time to take up the job, what with the world financial crisis, Israel’s attack into Gaza, new disputes about ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, etc. – oh, and also the latest installment of the perennial Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute, which actually gave the Czechs the opportunity to mediate effectively and so chalk up an early success to their credit. (more…)