EC President unveils Plan-D in Prague
A European Commission delegation led by its President Jose Manuel Barroso is currently touring EU member states with an initiative aimed at bringing the European Union closer to its citizens and overcoming the crisis brought on by the rejection of the EU constitution by the French and Dutch. Mr. Barroso's first stop was in Prague, where he unveiled a so called Plan-D, which, he said, should show the way forward.
And what better place to test the strength of his arguments than at Prague Castle, in a debate with President Vaclav Klaus who is generally regarded as one on Europe's leading Euro-sceptics. Following their meeting both men had high praise for Plan-D - each for different reasons. Mr. Barosso, because he believes it will open the way to greater EU integration, President Klaus because he hopes it will prevent it.
Vaclav Klaus: "I think I can say that we agree on where we find ourselves today. President Barroso believes we should travel further beyond this point, while I believe that we have already passed the optimal and reasonable point of integration."
The EC president begged to disagree, saying that the French and Dutch rejections of the EU Constitution were a problem that could be resolved through dialogue and that today Europe needed unity more than ever before.
Following talks at Prague Castle, Mr. Barroso met the Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who is known to be a staunch supporter of further integration, and together they opened an information Euro-centre in Prague, the first of several which are to function in different parts of the country. Later the Commission President, its Vice-president Margot Wallstrom and the EU Commissioner for Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla took part in a televised debate with members of the public.
Although the majority of Czechs support EU membership and a recent poll suggests that 56% of them believe it gives their country many advantages, the general public is not overly concerned with EU matters or the workings of the European Union. They just expect it to produce results. When a TV crew trailing the Commission President asked one bystander if he could say who Jose Manuel Barroso was, the man replied "an opera singer?".