As the clock ticks towards the Czech Republic’s takeover of the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency on January 1, there are signs of distinct nervousness in Brussels and some EU capitals over how Prague will cope with the challenge.
For most EU governments, the global financial crisis, economic recession, the fate of the Lisbon institutional reform treaty and relations with Russia will be the top priorities for the first half of next year. And they are not sure the Czechs see things quite the same way or, if they do, will be able to provide effective leadership at a time when the government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has scarcely looked weaker.
The Czechs will be the second former communist country to assume the EU presidency. Slovenia’s spell in the hot seat in the first half of this year was generally considered successful. But some EU diplomats make the point that the Slovenes did not have to confront the full-scale emergency that erupted in the world financial system or handle the Russian invasion of Georgia in August. What a relief that France, an experienced and powerful member-state, was at the controls during these crises – so the argument runs. Read more