Sarkozy Longer as EU President?

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

The leading Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad had an interesting item over the press conference given by Minister of Finance (and Cabinet chairmen in the absence of Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende, who is visiting China) Wouter Bos, which we can see in the article’s headline: Bos alludes to extension of French EU chairmanship.

From the very beginning of the European Union (i.e. from 1958; it was then known as the European Economic Community) the member-states have taken turns, at six-month intervals, at assuming the “EU presidency,” although the role is more-accurately described as the presidency/chairmanship of the Council of the European Union, which is the legislative forum for the member-states and usually the most-powerful of the EU’s component institutions. Naturally, the queue of countries waiting to serve their turn as president includes all EU member-states, and it was in the first half of this year that the first country from the great 10-country EU enlargement of May, 2004, had its turn as president, namely Slovenia.

The thing is, the second half of 2008 has proved to be far-from-normal times. First there was the diplomatic crisis over the conflict between Russia and Georgia, and now we have the international system of finance seriously in need of some restructuring. France is now EU President, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy has by all accounts done a credible job in responding to the worldwide financial panic. (His intervention in the Russian-Georgian conflict to secure the cease-fire was subject to rather more mixed reviews.) The comfort the EU has had with Sarkozy as point-man on that crisis may have much to do with the French president’s own personal qualities, but it also stems from France’s status as one of the EU’s major powers and its deep and capable governmental machinery. What if one or more of these grave problems had arisen during the Slovenian presidency: could President Danilo Turk and the Slovenian government have effectively handled the task of leading the EU response? (more…)

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Václav Klaus: Which Way Will He Vote?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2003

The countdown is on for the referendum in the Czech Republic on EU accession, to take place over next Friday and Saturday (13 and 14 June). As most of the other candidate countries have done, Czech authorities are also making use of the tactic of opening the voting centers over two days to encourage as large a turn-out as possible (although referenda in the Czech Republic do not have any legally-mandated level of participation, below which they become invalid). And the Prague authorities enjoy a further advantage: their referendum is towards the end in the series of candidate country referenda (only a couple of the Baltic countries remain), and the script has gone according to plan – all of the other countries voting before have voted “Yes” (if in some cases with distressingly-low levels of voter turn-out), so that puts further pressure on Czech voters not to show themselves to be the odd man out. (more…)

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UN General Assembly President Caught Up in Security Scandal

Wednesday, May 28th, 2003

The referendum dates for EU accession for Poland (7-9 June) and the Czech Republic (13-14 June) are drawing near, and will surely provide ample grist for the EuroSavant mill – soon, if not right now.

Right now, I’d like to discuss an interesting scandal raging in the Czech Republic. Interesting, because it reflects an ongoing problem for former Soviet block countries which have joined the NATO alliance, or which have been invited to or otherwise would like to, and also because it happens to implicate the current President of the United Nations General Assembly, the former Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan. (more…)

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President Václav Klaus on Communism

Monday, April 28th, 2003

A slow day – the situation in Iraq is cooling down, while arguments over a new “constitution” for the European Union promise to heat up soon – so what caught my eye on a survey through today’s Czech papers was the article “Klaus on Communism”, written by Czech President (and former professor) Václav Klaus in today’s on-line Lidové noviny. (more…)

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