What is Czech Republic hoping to achieve at key EU summit?

Photo: European Commission

The EU is gearing up for a crucial summit this week. It starts Thursday and is scheduled to end Friday, but could well go on longer, as Europe's leaders try to hammer out the outlines of a treaty on how to run the organisation. As its presidency draws to a close, Germany has been pushing for some kind of revival of the constitution rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands. Other states, including the Czech Republic, are demanding a considerably more limited treaty. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is the only member supporting Poland, which is threatening to veto any deal if it loses some of its voting rights. Why is Prague supporting Warsaw, and how far will that support go? And what does the Czech Republic want out of this week's make-or-break summit?

Ivo Slosarcik
I discussed these issues and more with Ivo Slosarcik of the think tank Europeum.

"Both the Czech Republic and Poland belong to the group of states which are rather reluctant towards the extremely ambitious constitutional project. However the motivations behind that reluctance are different. Of course, that forms the limit to this alliance between the Czech Republic and Poland.

"Poland is very much concerned about the voting scheme, as a big small state, or a small big state. The Czech Republic is not so concerned about voting powers, because we are not losing either under the constitutional two-tier system or under the [proposed] Polish system. Our situation would not change so significantly.

"So we can expect the Czech Republic will support Poland, but this support is not unconditional. In the case of real conflict we could go our own way and follow a different path than Poland."

Also the Czech Republic supports the Dutch position on returning some powers from Brussels to national parliaments. What powers are they talking about, and is there any chance of success in this area?

"These are Czech priorities. First they are about the symoblics, so we strictly reject the idea of having the term constitution in the document, or some chapter about the symbols of the EU, quasi-state symbols.

Photo: European Commission
"I think the Czech Republic simply wants to have in the treaty text a clause which states that the transfer of powers is not a one-way route..."

Sorry to interrupt but in concrete terms what particular powers would they like to have returned?

"I think it's preliminary to talk about this yet. I think a general clause about this flexibility would be more important.

"Definitely areas where we would like to keep strict control are, in particular, taxation powers, issues of social security and its harmonisation - we don't want much harmonisation.

"And it's quite possible - but not sure, just possible - that we would want some more clear national rights in the area of foreign policy and justice-home affairs."

So for the Czech Republic what do you think would be a good outcome of this week's big summit in Brussels?

"Frankly I think for the Czech Republic it would be a good outcome if there is some deal, some road-map stating how the treaty project will go on. Definitely the Czech Republic would appreciate some symbolic victory, which means no reference to a constitution in the text of the treaty, and perhaps no supremacy of EU law over national constitutions.

"We must be clear though that the summit will not produce the final treaty - it will just produce a road-map..."

Even still, what happens this week is extremely important. Finally, and briefly, Ivo - do you think they will strike a deal this week?

"I strongly believe yes. I see in the vast majority of member states, including the Czech Republic, the willingness to get some deal. I think the Czech Republic would consider the failure to get a deal as a political failure. But I believe we will have some kind of deal by the end of the week."