Good Looking – Poor Substance

Austrian Institute of International Affairs

The Austrian newspaper “Die Presse” compared Nicolas Sarkozy to the fire brigades, which tried to extinguish one fire after the other. He was present everywhere, presented ideas, visions and riveted the audiences’ attention, but when he left a vacuum was left behind. Although Sarkozy was bustling and tried to tackle many issues, he seemed to forget other urgent questions as for instance the problems in the suburbs of Paris.
The peace agreement between Georgia and Russia leaves many questions and problems unsolved and could cause more confusion because of its inaccuracy. Sarkozy pressed too hard on a Mediterranean Union, which nobody wanted except him and his agrarian reform is rather seen as a step backwards than anything else.[1] In brief, the French Presidency has shown Europe what can be done and how it could be done, but also how it should not be done. Sarkozy managed to put new dynamics into European politics, but his doings without taking care of consequences has left lots of confusion. Again the newspaper “Die Presse” put it very bluntly by saying that Sarkozy had raised so much dust, that on one side none could see where the European journey was going and on the other side the errors committed and the empty promises could be hidden quite well.[2]
The official Austria represented by Austria’s Minister for European and International Affairs Michael Spindelegger, drew a rather positive balance by saying that the French Presidency proved that Europe is able to stand united in times of crisis.[3]
The already mentioned oppositional Austrian Freedom Party valued – through their Member of the European Parliament Andreas Mölzer – that the French Presidency had had no respect for the Irish ‘No’ and instead of correcting the – according to their point of view – undesired developments, the Presidency tried to force upon the member states the Lisbon Treaty. Mölzer said that Sarkozy could have used the Irish ‘No’ against the Lisbon Treaty to create a better Europe, where all sovereign nation-states could work on an equal level.[4]
Modest expectations – Many critics
The expectations in Austria for the Czech Presidency are rather low. The media has been criticizing Mirek Topolánek because of his non acknowledgement of the Lisbon Treaty and keeping the other member states in the dark concerning the question of the date for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the Czech government.[5]
The Czech takeover of the EU-Presidency was highly criticised by the right wing Austrian Freedom Party. The main reasons were on the one side, the enduring dispute between Austria and the Czech Republic over the Benes Decrees and on the other side, the discussions in regard to the nuclear power plant of Temelin. Andreas Mölzer said the EU was making a fool of itself by still accepting that the Czech Republic was holding on to the Benes Decrees, which proved to be against the so called “community of values” of the European Union. He also accused the Czechs of still discriminating against the German minorities in daily life.[6]
Ulrike Lunacek, foreign spokesman of the Greens, stated that she expected the Czech Presidency to become “positive” and highlighted the work of the Czech Green Party in the fields of climate change and the Lisbon Treaty.[7]

Generally it is expected that under the Czech Presidency the Czechs will ratify the Lisbon Treaty.

[1] “S wie Nicolas Sarkozy: Am Arm der schönen Carla, auf Distanz zur spröden Angela”, Die Presse, 30 December 2008, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).

[2] “Wirbelsturm aus dem Élysée”, Die Presse, 22 December 2008, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).

[3] “Sarkozy zog Bilanz der EU – Ratspräsidentschaft”, Die Presse, 16 December 2008, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).

[4] “Mölzer: Sarkozys Lobeshymnen auf Lissabon-Vertrag – Kein Respekt vor dem Nein der Iren”, press release, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).

[5] “Europaparlament: Die Prager Sphinx”, Die Presse, 14 January 2009, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).

[6] “Mölzer: Mit Tschechien übernimmt Land mit Völkermorddekreten Vorsitz in EU –‘Wertegemeinschaft’”, press release, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).

[7] “Grüne hoffen auf positive tschechische EU-Präsidentschaft”, press release, available at: (last access: 17 February 2009).