EU trades in "Delegation" for "Representation"

Christian Bourgin, photo:

When the Czech Republic joined to the European Union on the first of May, the Delegation of the European Commission in Prague ceased to exist. There's no cause for alarm — it was merely transformed into a "Representation" office of the Commission. Such offices exist now in all 25 member states and they carry out many of the same duties as the old Delegaations, acting as a liaison with Brussels. Frenchman Christian Bourgin, the old Delegation's first counsellor, is now acting Head of the new Representation. He spoke to Radio Prague's Brian Kenety.

"My name is Christian Bourgin. I'm a civil servant of the commission - the European Commission. I've been already 21 years in the commission; 11 years in third countries and all third countries were new members, I mean future members. I was first in Austria, then in Slovakia and now two and a half years in the Czech Republic. So, I can say I am a sort of 'addict' to new members."

"After my two and a half years as first counsellor in the delegation, I am taking over for continuing and being in charge of the representation. We cease to be a diplomatic mission and we are a representation of the European Commission in an EU member state. I will be very happy to do that until, of course, a Czech takes the responsibility."

What is your first task as head of the Representation?

"It is a new institution, in a sense. We will continue - many tasks will be as usual. For instance, we continue until the end of the year to be involved in the Phare activities — Phare is this programme for supporting the Czech Republic [and other newcomers] in the pre-accession time. It will continue for a few months after. And we are going to do media activities and the normal task of representation."

You seem to be a man of the people -- you are not here with EU delegates...

"My children, they are now learning which are the 25 countries [of the expanded EU]. I am trying to teach them. They are able to tell about 10 countries for the moment, but mixed, I mean, Slovakia, Czech Republic, all these countries of Central Europe they know of course because they have lived in these places. They are only 6 and 7. If they remember the name of the country, it's good. They know that there are 25 now."

"And I must say they speak Czech. I mean, I do not, unfortunately, but they speak perfect Czech. They have been in the Czech schools and previously in the Slovak schools, so."