Czechs welcome results of EU's Brussels summit

Nicolas Sarkozy, photo: CTK

A two-day summit of the European Union in Brussels, which concluded on Friday, was the last before the Czech Republic assumes the rotating EU presidency. Leaders of 27 EU member states agreed on a common energy and climate policy, a recovery plan for the European economy and approved a number of Irish-inspired concessions on the Lisbon treaty. All this was good news for the Czechs who will soon be in the spotlight as the next country presiding over the European Union.

Nicolas Sarkozy,  photo: CTK
French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a message on Friday for all who are sceptical about the upcoming Czech EU presidency. The Czech prime minister’s recent re-election as party leader was good news for Europe, Mr Sarkozy said, wishing the Czechs good luck in their new role.

Czech officials were happy with the results of the meeting in Brussels. The energy and climate deal, which should see emissions of greenhouse gases in Europe reduced by 20 percent by 2020, brought with it an important concession for the Czechs and other central and east European countries. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told reporters on Friday that the compromise was indeed good news.

“In 2013, the Czech Republic will receive 70 percent of its carbon permits free of charge. We will benefit from this until 2020. Three days ago, the draft allowed for only 50 percent of free carbon permits. This important shift is in our favour, and it takes into account that the Czech Republic produces most of its electricity from coal, and that it will have to dramatically change this and invest a great deal of money into this field.”

Nicolas Sarkozy,  Angela Merkel,  Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
EU leaders also embraced the Eastern Partnership project that should strengthen ties with the European Union’s eastern neighbours; one of the Czech Republic’s presidency priorities.

The concessions made to Ireland on the Lisbon treaty were also welcomed by Czech politicians; each EU nation will have one commissioner and, perhaps more importantly, each member state will keep its autonomy in issues of taxation, family law and defence policy. Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said that this is particularly important for the Czech Republic which may host a US radar base as part of the American missile defence shield in Europe.

“The issue of defence and security policy is very important for us as a NATO member state and a country which signed a treaty with the United States on cooperation in missile defence. And even if the Lisbon treaty comes into force, this is something over which the European Union has no say because it’s outside of its sphere of competence.”

For French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the meeting in Brussels concluded a successful French presidency of the EU. At the next summit, to be held in March, it will be the Czechs who will be responsible for the EU’s successes and failures.