One third of way through, how is Czech presidency of EU going?

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

We are now one third of the way through the Czech Republic’s six-month rotating presidency of the EU. Between the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the gas supply dispute between Russia and Ukraine, the presidency got off to a dramatic start, while the global financial crisis remains the major issue of the day. But how has Prague actually been handling the presidency so far? That’s a question I put to Petr Drulák of the Institute for International Relations.

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK
“It’s going quite well, I would say. There was a quite competent handling of the gas crisis…And, yes, I would actually expect the Czech government to be a bit more active in dealing with the economic crisis.

“On the other hand, I also understand a certain Czech reticence, where the Czech government is actually afraid of excessive intervention. Because, unfortunately, this crisis is something that needs to be endured, it cannot be easily cured, and it could be quite dangerous to prescribe Europe bad medicine…”

Petr Drulák
Well, the economy was one of the three Es [along with energy and external relations] identified by the Czech presidency identified as their priorities. How are they doing in terms of having their ideas accepted? For example, the big European countries seem to be pushing for more regulation, the Czech government I imagine isn’t in favour of increased regulation.

“A decrease in the regulatory burden was one of the priorities of the Czech government…it’s quite obvious, these priorities were outlined before the crisis started, and everybody, including the Czech government, is quite aware of the fact that they need to be changed.”

“As for the splits in the EU, each issue generates some sort of split…I actually see a lot of affinity between the Czech approach to these things and the German approach. And of course much less affinity between the Czech approach and the French approach.”

And has the at least perceived sniping between Paris and Prague to some extent overshadowed the presidency?

“Well, maybe in the media, maybe for the media for a few days. But in reality it’s not something which would interfere with what’s going on really. Of course it’s unfortunate, but more when we speak about the media image, rather than when we speak about results and what is going on.”

In the next four months what will be key moments, the key aspects of the remaining part of the presidency?

“I think the economic crisis will stay on the agenda as the first priority for the months to come. Then of course it’s quite interesting how the Czech presidency will develop its idea of Eastern Partnerships and energy security – the meetings with gas and oil suppliers.”