Sunday

21st Oct 2018

Czech PM moves to allay presidency fears

  • New Czech prime minister Jan Fischer. It is unclear whether Mr Fischer will chair the European summit in June. (Photo: czso.cz)

The new prime minister of the Czech Republic, Jan Fischer, sought to allay concerns on Tuesday (12 May) about his country's helmsmanship of the EU, saying the successful completion of his country's EU presidency was "priority number one."

With less than two months to go as holders of the EU's rotating six-month presidency, the central European country appointed a new caretaker government on 8 May following a vote of no confidence in the Czech lower house in March.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The new ministers see things the same way [as I do]," Mr Fischer told journalists after a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, his first visit abroad as prime minister.

To ensure a smooth finish, the Czechs will work in close co-operation with the commission, he said, adding that he and Mr Barroso had even exchanged telephone numbers.

Among the high-profile events remaining under the Czech presidency before it draws to a close at the end of June is an EU leaders' summit on 18-19 June, with the chief question being who will chair the two-day meeting.

So far it is undecided whether the role will be carried out by Mr Fischer or the country's eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus.

Mr Klaus is a staunch critic of the Lisbon Treaty and also holds controversial views on climate change, strongly criticising environmentalists in his 2007 book on the subject.

Czech weekly magazine Respekt has since claimed that the book was funded by Lukoil, a Russian energy company.

Mr Fischer says an official decision on the summit's chairmanship has not been taken yet, but that he personally believes the responsibility should fall on his shoulders.

"My position is that it should be the head of the executive power [who chairs the summit], but we have not decided yet," he says.

Issues to be discussed at the meeting include the region's response to the economic crisis, the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen at the end of the year and formal approval of the legal guarantees Ireland is seeking over certain aspects of the Lisbon treaty.

Partially as a result of the chairmanship uncertainty, but also because of the tight timetable, the Irish government is working hard to secure unofficial member-state approval for the guarantees before the summit starts, say diplomats.

Lisbon ratification

Mr Fischer – who describes himself as a "euro-realist" - said he was pleased by the recent Czech Senate approval of the Lisbon treaty, adding that he hopes Mr Klaus will now sign the document without delay - the last step in the country's ratification process.

However, a new stumbling block appeared on Tuesday with a number of senators announcing they intend to challenge the legality of the document in the country's top court.

The Czech constitutional court has already ruled that certain sections of the reforming treaty are in line with the Czech constitution but has not dealt with the document in its entirety.

"We want the Constitutional Court to assess the treaty as a whole this time," said Jiri Oberfalzer, a senator for the right-wing Civic Democratic Party party (ODS) on Tuesday, reports AFP.

Mr Oberfalzer says the move has the support of at least 17 senators, the minimum needed under Czech law to bring a constitutional complaint to the court.

The document is also facing constitutional challenges in Germany.

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Exclusive

Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch

The commission heavily redacted documents released to EUobserver because they were reportedly 'out of scope'. Transparency campaigner Helen Darbishire says however the information was "clearly directly relevant to the request".

Interview

How Juncker's 'do less' group concluded EU should not do less

EUobserver followed Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the president of the Committee of Regions over nine months - and six interviews - as he worked on one of Jean-Claude Juncker's pet projects: one of the five so-called 'future of Europe' scenarios.

News in Brief

  1. Germany leads EU criticism of Saudi Arabia
  2. Huge pro-EU march takes place in London
  3. Macedonia MPs back name deal in initial vote
  4. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  5. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  6. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  7. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  8. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us