President Klaus not to chair EU leaders' summit

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

Czech President Václav Klaus on Wednesday announced that he had no ambitions to chair a high-profile summit of EU leaders in June, proposing that the task should go to the country’s newly appointed interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer. The statement ended weeks of speculation that the Eurosceptic Czech head of state would use the gathering as a platform for his anti-reformist views.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
EU leaders generally view the Czech EU presidency as a bumpy ride and, since the fall of prime minister Topolánek’s centre-right government in March, EU meetings have come to resemble parties to which the host has forgotten to invite most of the guests. However the last summit under Czech leadership would have been impossible to ignore. The June summit is expected to revolve around the Lisbon treaty – the EU’s reform document which is to change the way in which the 27-member-block is run. At the meeting EU leaders are due to sign a series of treaty guarantees on tax, neutrality and ethical issues as part of a political package for Ireland, whose citizens are expected to vote on the document for a second time in the autumn –a vote that many see as the last big hurdle on the road to ratification by all members.
Photo: European Commission
Fears that the Eurosceptic Czech president, who has not yet signed the Lisbon treaty and who recently pronounced it to be dead on the grounds of the first Irish referendum, could somehow throw a spanner in the works had led EU leaders to openly discuss the possibility of postponing the summit until July, when it would be chaired by the next presiding country Sweden. In the course of the last week pressure on the Czech Republic to prevent further mishaps has grown, with newspapers across Europe predicting a disastrous end to the Czech EU presidency should it be chaired by the controversial Czech president. News that he has given up this ambition – in favour of the country’s interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer, a virtual unknown in European politics, has been greeted with general relief. As the former head of the Czech Statistical Office, Mr. Fischer is expected to tackle the task with expedience and precision – proceeding exactly according to plan – and allowing the big players to lead the way. Which, under the present circumstances, is the best that the weakened Czech presidency can hope for.