Let me start here with a quick apology to my €S readers: I know that the subject dominating the headlines these days is the Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, so I am overdue in bringing up for discussion on this forum some apposite article in the non-English-language press that supplies a piquant perspective on the tragedy unfolding there. And “overdue” I will have to continue to be, as I have yet to find a piece that truly qualifies for that treatment, unless you are willing to count my indirect approach to the Mid-East in the form of my previous discussion of what is possibly – but probably not – a little-known source of EU leverage over Israel.
I’ve got another indirect take for you here: Questions of leverage apart, has the question crossed your mind as to why on earth there appear to be two EU delegations heading to Israel to try to influence things there, namely the one headed by the Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg and the one with French president Nicolas Sarkozy? Seems rather inefficient, no? Still, it all becomes perfectly logical in light of the fear and loathing felt across the EU at the accession – brought about simply by the requirements of the EU calendar – of the Czech Republic and Václav Klaus to the EU presidency for the next six months. To these observers, the contrast between what they fear from the Czechs and the admirable activism that marked France’s just-completed term at the presidency is so agonizing that they simply can’t let go – and thus you see, in effect, both “before” and “after” versions of EU diplomatic delegations in the MidEast.
This fear of what the Czechs may bring to the EU at what has turned out to be a crucial period, both for its internal affairs and its external relations, is real. Quite apart from the beginner’s mistakes you can expect from a small country undertaking the presidency for the first time, there is great worry over Klaus’ controversial stands on various EU issues and how they might serve to gum up the works still further. (A broad segment even of Czech opinion shares these concerns, by the way. I’ve got to see if I can find an article or two out of the Czech press about that to discuss.) But today there comes a most interesting opinion piece in the Financial Times Deutschland, by Nils Kreimeier (Witch-hunt in Prague), that bravely takes up the unconventional view that maybe Václav Klaus is not someone to worry much about but rather is the sort of personality that the EU should welcome. (more…)