Praise for the French Presidency and doubt about the Czechs’ ability to follow suite

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
In general, the French Presidency was assessed as a very successful one. Its ability to switch from the original emphasis on e.g. agriculture and defence, to Georgia and the financial crisis, has received well-earned praise in the EU and Finland alike. The final results and successfulness of the French Presidency remain to be seen.
 
Full speed ahead from the start
 

Satisfied with France, hopeful with regards to the Czech Presidency

Estonia
University of Tartu
 
The Estonian government considers the French Presidency to be a successful one, recognizing that it had to deal with many extraordinary events and managed to “address them very well”.[1] In particular, Estonia appreciates the active role that the French Presidency took in mediating the Russian-Georgian crisis, and securing the cessation of military activities relatively quickly. At the same time, there was a wide-spread impression that France was too eager to normalize relations with Russia after the latter had withdrawn its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
 
Other French successes, according to Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, include the EU military operation off the Somalian coast in response to pirate attacks (Estonian sailors have repeatedly been held captive by pirates and their fate has been followed closely by the media) as well as rapid reaction to military conflict in the Gaza sector. Estonia also appreciated the fact that important agreements were reached in the field of energy and energy security during the French Presidency.[2]
 
Five shared priorities
 

Energy and climate policy as top priority

Denmark
Danish Institute for International Studies
 
The French Presidency has generally received very positive critics in the Danish media and has been praised for its solutions to the many unexpected crises the EU has been facing: the Russia-Georgia conflict, the Irish ‘No’ and the financial crisis.
 

Muted approval for France in the running up to the Czech Presidency

Czech Republic
Institute of International Relations
 
The French Presidency and its evaluation drew a lot of attention from the Czech media, the political scene and even the public sphere. The reasons were manifold. First, the institution of the presidency itself draws attention on its own thanks to the real and symbolic importance of the post. Secondly, the French administration stirred the still waters of European politics, and the waves have also reached the Czech Republic.
 

France did a difficult job – Czech task is not less ambitious

Cyprus
Cyprus Institute for Mediterranean, European and International Studies
 
Cyprus is clearly an EU member state that encourages the further deepening of the European Union. In this respect, Nicosia perceives other member states, such as Germany and France, as the core states which promote EU deepening policies and could sacrifice their national interest for the collective European interest.
 
During the last semester of 2008, France holding the EU-presidency, managed to effectively promote a series of priorities and also take up immediate actions on unforeseen events (like the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the Russo-Georgian conflict and the global financial crisis) which have dominated current affairs.
 

A mixed assessment of France and high expectations for the Czech Presidency

Croatia
Institute for International Relations
 
Continuation of the ratification process and the agreement on the new referendum in Ireland is regarded as a major success of the French Presidency in Croatia
 
Taking into account global challenges that occurred during the French Presidency, its pre-defined priorities and Croatian focus on accession negotiations, various segments of Croatian public evaluate differently the achievements of the French Presidency. Despite the fact that the enlargement process was not amongst the main priorities of the French Presidency, its results are viewed from the perspective of accession negotiations, which are amongst Croatia's top priorities.
 

Active and productive French Presidency, fear of too Euroscpetic Czech president

Bulgaria
Bulgarian European Community Studies Association
 
Assuming the EU rotation chair on 1 July 2008 in a complex situation related to the negative outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty ratification, France held out hopes that Europe would emerge stronger at the end of the year, capable of dealing with pressing problems. Bulgaria also had high expectations for the French Ppresidency in the second half of 2008. Several publications emphasized that the two countries were united by common European interests and that the partnership between them is based on a reciprocal confidence and respect. The French Parliament was the only one to have ratified Bulgaria’s EU accession treaty unanimously. In Bulgaria, France as a whole is considered to be not just one of the founders of the European Community, but also a state with a long-term vision of the European project.
 

A global success with a few weaknesses

Belgium
Centre d’étude de la vie politique, Université libre de Bruxelles
 
The French Presidency was overwhelmingly considered a success, mainly because of the charismatic French President Sarkozy, who was largely covered by the press.[1] The Czech Presidency in comparison is debated less and the expectations are generally rather low and ambiguous. The French Presidency was globally associated on the one hand with three major “dossier” and on the other hand, with the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.
 
First of all, the three main “dossiers” highlighted during the semester were defense policy, climate and energy, and Congo. Concerning the defense policy, it was recognized as a priority for the French Presidency, but that was considered as far too ambitious.[2] Moreover, the Belgian political elite were rather divided on that area. Some parties, such as the Flemish-speaking socialists (SPA-VL.Pro) consider that defense is not a priority for many member states and certainly not a priority for Belgium.[3] While others, such as the French-speaking liberals (MR), claimed that the EU should progress in terms of a common defense policy.[4]
 
Climate and energy package
 

Good Looking – Poor Substance

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]