Thursday

24th Jun 2021

Czechs blast 'protectionist' comments by Sarkozy

Prague has reacted with anger to remarks made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on moving French car companies back from the Czech Republic, saying the comments endanger ratification of the EU treaty in the central European member state.

"If someone wanted to really jeopardise the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, he could not have chosen a better way and a better time," Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek told the Hospodarske Noviny daily, reports AFP.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • French-Czech relations have soured since the handover of EU presidency responsibilities (Photo: Council of the EU)

Calling the remarks "incredible", Mr Topolanek said: "I don't want to scaremonger, I will vote in favour of Lisbon, but here is a big country taking decisions on what will affect our lives."

In an unusual step, Prague, which currently holds the EU presidency, also released an official statement on the issue.

"As the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic I do not understand the argument that it is unjustifiable to manufacture cars for the French market in the Czech Republic," said the statement, with presidency countries usually reluctant to pick a fight with single countries, particularly a large member state such as France.

"The attempts to use the financial crisis to introduce such forms of protectionism and protective measures may slow down and threaten the revival of the European economy," it continued.

Prague was reacting to a speech on Thursday (5 February) by Mr Sarkozy in which he suggested that delocalisation of French car companies should be stopped and the companies relocalised. Carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen has a plant in the Czech Republic.

"If you build a Renault plant in India to sell Renaults to Indians, that's justified, but if you build a factory, without saying the company's name, in the Czech Republic to sell cars in France, that's not justified."

The speech was an attempt by Mr Sarkozy to assure French people, who took to streets in their masses in late January, that he is taking action to protect their livelihoods in the face of the global economic crisis.

He will later today present plans to aid the French car industry, which would include loans worth about €6 billion to car makers Renault and Peugeot Citroen, according to daily Le Figaro.

The French-Czech exchange highlights the tensions felt by governments throughout the EU as the economic recession starts to bite, with capitals starting to snipe at each other.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen recently hit out at European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for making comparisons between Iceland – currently in financial meltdown – and Ireland.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's VAT-reduction proposals for tackling the economic crisis have been derided by France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Czech situation however is exacerbated by the fact that the country has yet to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, with any moves to move the French company out of the Czech Republic likely to undermine MPs' already fragile support for the document.

The parliament is due to vote on the document on 17 February after already delaying the vote for several weeks.

In addition, Mr Sarkozy who ran the EU in the second half of last year has been a thorn in the side of the Czechs since they took over in January. He went to the Middle East during Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip on his own mission while the Czechs, as the EU presidency, were also there.

More recently, he implied that the Czech EU presidency was being too passive in its reaction to the global financial crisis.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

News in Brief

  1. Gay-rights activist storms pitch at Hungary's Euro game
  2. UK defies Russian military over Crimea
  3. Delta variant to be 'predominant in EU by end-August'
  4. EU domestic banks need climate-risk plans
  5. Report: France and Germany want EU-Russia summit
  6. New EU rules on shipping fuels dubbed 'disastrous'
  7. Japan government proposes four-day working week
  8. US: Nord Stream 2 undermines Ukraine's security

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU talks migration over dinner, as NGO rescue-ship sets sail
  2. EU enlargement still 'hopelessly stuck'
  3. EU creates new cyber unit, after wave of online attacks
  4. How NOT to frame debate about Hungary's toxic anti-gay law
  5. What a post-Netanyahu Israel means for EU
  6. EU Commission warns Hungary over anti-LGBTIQ measures
  7. Fourteen EU countries condemn Hungary over anti-LGBTIQ law
  8. EU preparing to lift Burundi sanctions, despite warning

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us