The country’s first presidency increases the attention paid to EU affairs

Czech Republic
Institute of International Relations
 
The Czech Presidency, which began on 1 January 2009, has increased mass media interest in EU affairs in general. Both the gas crisis and the Gaza conflict received extended coverage in the Czech Republic. The gas crisis further stressed the topic of energy security, which already before this event was a priority of the Czech government. One of the main priorities of the Czech Presidency is energy, including finding solutions to both climate change and energy supply vulnerability.[1] From a Czech perspective, however, the dependence on Russian energy sources has always been more of a priority than the discussions on climate change.[2] Yet, despite the awareness of the importance of the topic, the governing coalition is split on how to provide energy to the country in the future, due to a split on the future of nuclear energy.
 
During the autumn it was widely discussed whether the Czech Presidency will be discredited due to the eurosceptic image of the country. It was the lack of progress concerning the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic[3] as well as the behaviour of President Václav Klaus that caused worries among parts of the domestic political elite, analysts and journalists.[4] Klaus’ meeting with Declan Ganley during a state visit to Ireland in November was largely discussed and not only in the Czech Republic. Later, Klaus got into a quarrel with a delegation from the European Parliament during their visit to Prague, and Klaus was also criticised by French President Sarkozy for his refusal to hoist the EU flag on the Prague Castle.[5]




[1] Work Programme of the Czech Presidency Europe without Barriers, available at: http://www.eu2009.cz/en/czech-presidency/programme-and-priorities/progra... (last access: 31 January 2009).


[2] Energy security tops Czech Presidency agenda, 7 January 2009, available at: http://www.euractiv.com/en/opinion/energy-security-tops-czech-presidency... (last access: 31 January 2009); Czechs push for greater EU focus on electricity, 3 February 2009, available at; http://www.euractiv.com/en/energy/czechs-push-greater-eu-focus-electrici... (last access: 3 February 2009).


[3] See question 1.


[4] Klaus-Ganley meeting not to affect Czech position in EU – analysts, 11 November 2008, available at: http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/index_view.php?id=343733 (last access: 31 January 2009).


[5] Foreign Min. dismisses Sarkozy's criticism of no EU flag by Klaus, 16 December 2008, available at: http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/tema/index_view.php?id=350400&id_seznam=2019 (last access: 25 February 2009), see also Grumpy Uncle Vaclav, 4 December 2008, available at: http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12724780 (last access 31 January 2009).