That nightmare is having Václav Klaus, noted euroskeptic, functioning as president of the EU. His country, the Czech Republic, does indeed hold the six-month rotating EU presidency until the end of June, and with the fall of the Czech government of prime minister Mirek Topolánek in the last week of March through the passage of a no-confidence motion in the lower house of the Czech parliament the props were kicked out from under the Czech politician who most people assumed was actually responsible for conducting that EU presidency. Now that Obama has left Prague so that inter-government discord need no longer be swept under the carpet, Klaus has announced a plan to do away entirely with Topolánek as head of the government by stating that he is in favor instead of having a caretaker government of non-political experts installed to run the country until early elections can be held next October. That is perfectly within his right – in fact, in these circumstances it is his very function – as Czech president, and the new prime minister he prefers is Jan Fischer, who currently is chairman of the Czech Statistical Agency. Tereza Nosálková and Petra Pospĕchová of Hospoářské noviny have an excellent analysis of what all this means, especially to the EU in their article Fear of Klaus transforms Europe’s timetable. (more…)
As the May 1, 2004, date for the accession of the ten new EU member-states approached, most current EU members started to get cold feet about the Union’s “free labor mobility” aspect, which is supposed to mean that any EU citizen can go work freely in any other EU state than his own. For the Spanish or Portuguese moving to, say, Austria or Germany, that’s OK – studies show that in fact European workers are generally to little inclined to leave the home and culture they are used to to make use of this facility anyway. But then all those Czechs, Hungarians, and especially Poles? – who could even triple the value of their current wages at home by moving into their new brother EU countries, and/or who would be eligible for the much more generous social welfare programs over there if their job-search did not pan out? That was something else again; in the face of this, that “free labor mobility” would simply have to be suspended for a while, and most current EU member-states accordingly took advantage of provisions gained in accession negotiations with the ten entering states to set up various (temporary) restrictions on those nationals being able to come to their countries to gain work or social welfare benefits.
Ireland was the exception, imposing no such restrictions. And well it would not, since Ireland has continued to be the “Celtic Tiger” high-growth economy – at least relative to other pre-May, 2004, EU members – that attracted so much attention from international observers in the late 1990s. Today unemployment is still under 4% there, meaning that labor is in short supply, and foreigners are flocking to supply it – particularly foreigners from Ireland’s new fraternal EU member-states, and particularly Poles. This phenomenon is described in the article Promised Green Island by Jedrzej Bielecki in the mainstream Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. (more…)
This might not have been addressed directly in the Reader’s Digest-sponsored Euro-survey I reported yesterday – but when you’re asked to name a great partying nation, the Irish would be at least near the top of your list, am I right? But that would be before you remember that it was precisely Ireland where Europe’s first public-smoking ban was introduced at the end of last March, just barely three months ago. A successful public-smoking ban, too, at least successful so far, and that naturally starts people’s thoughts heading in the direction of whether such a measure can’t also succeed elsewhere. (Of course, Norway banned public smoking in turn just this very month.)
On the other hand, a recent report in the main Czech business newspaper Hospodárské noviny points to this anti-vice crusade spreading in another direction: still within Ireland, at least to begin with, but now with a view to throttling the consumption of alcoholic drinks (The Irish Go to War with Drink, Want ID-Checks, Higher Excise Taxes). (more…)
As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution. (more…)