End of Czech EU Presidency: At Least They’re Very Euro-Friendly!

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.

In reality, though, Kirchgeßner’s piece might just as well have been quite a bit shorter; all he really needed to do was cite the no-confidence vote of March 24 and then come full-stop. Because when you’re EU president you just don’t do that, you just don’t break up the government that for six months is more than a national government, that is in fact entrusted by the rest of the EU to provide at least a little trans-national leadership and for sure quite a lot of trans-national administrative effort and leg-work (to consult, set up meetings, establish agendas, etc.). Numerous other countries, with domestic political scenes just as fractious as the current Czech one or even more so (e.g. Italy), have taken care in the past to start preparing long beforehand to call a temporary truce to their national political conflicts to ensure that they could provide the governmental continuity for the EU presidency that is absolutely necessary – to go a good job and, basically, not to let the rest of the EU down. The Czechs could not do that, and so they should be condemned, not have excuses made for them. (And this does not even take into account the obstructive anti-EU snipings of Czech President Václav Klaus before, during, and after the de facto period of the Czech presidency.)

In essence, remember all that bad-mouthing by the French and all the rest, mentioned above, that the Czechs would not be able to handle the job? Well, they were all proved right, on March 24. And you can forget about “better luck next time,” because there probably will never be a next time: if the Lisbon Treaty is finally ratified, that will do away with the whole system of six-month national EU presidencies in favor of a one-person, elected EU President.

“But it’s easy to overlook that the Czechs are very friendly towards Europe,” Kirchgeßner writes towards the end, looking frantically for some silver lining. They punished the Social Democratic Party – widely seen as responsible for the Topolánek government’s fall – in the recent European elections; they also seem not to think much these days of their Eurosceptic president, either. OK, but what about the Slovaks or the Slovenes, whose friendliness towards the EU arguably goes much further than that of the Czechs, in that they have already taken the bitter economic medicine required to bring themselves within the eurozone? They will never have the chance to serve as EU president, nor will Poland, the most important country of that 2004 EU-entrance cohort of all. But the Czech Republic did get that chance – it’s all a function of the alphabetical-order of a country’s name, belive it or not – and messed it up royally.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.