23rd Jan 2020

Czech Republic rejects EU villain role

The Czech Republic is being unfairly painted as an EU villain ahead of its presidency next year, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said as the country gears up to take over the EU chair in January.

The Czech Republic's reputation as a highly eurosceptic country is "false," Mr Schwarzenberg told French daily Le Monde in an interview published on Saturday (25 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

"We are not more eurosceptic than other countries in Europe, and I regret that we are being presented as the bad [characters] in the play," he said.

Referring to the country's outspoken EU-hostile president, Vaclav Klaus, the diplomat underlined he "has his own opinions," but added that "it is the government that forms foreign and European policy."

According to the Czech top diplomat, Prague will also ratify the EU's Lisbon treaty - aimed at making the bloc more efficient – before the January presidency hand over.

Additionally, Mr Schwarzenberg dismissed doubts that a "small country" like his could not deal with major issues such as the Russia-Georgia conflict and the global financial crisis, which have dominated the French presidency agenda.

"We may be small but in the case of the Russians specifically, we have more know-how than anybody else since we lived with them for 40 years," he said.

"[For the rest,] we will of course keep a close and constant relation with each and every one of the EU member states. We are in Europe, the phone works, everybody can go within one hour to London or Paris, where is the problem?" he added.

Pistols at dawn

Mr Schwarzenberg's comments come as speculations have mounted in the media that French leader Nicolas Sarkozy may have ambitions to lead the EU beyond the end of the French chairmanship of the bloc, on 31 December.

Le Monde reported last week - quoting several advisors to the French president - that Mr Sarkozy would like to lead a new eurozone "economic government," heading the group of countries using the euro until another EU member state using the single currency takes up the rotating EU presidency, in 2010.

The Czech foreign minister said he "could not believe" this means Mr Sarkozy wants to "neutralise" the Czech EU presidency.

"This suspicion is unbearable," he added, joking that if Paris tried to "sabotage" Prague's presidency - a word used by a Sarkozy advisor in Le Monde - it would merit an old-fashioned duel.

"If the president used this word, I'd consider it is an insult. And if we were [living] at the times of our grand-parents, we would have to meet at 5am in the Boulogne Woods [a large park in Paris], with two witnesses dressed in black," he said.

Klaus attacks

Meanwhile, Mr Klaus over the weekend accused the French president of trying to undermine the Czech contribution.

"Mr Sarkozy wants to siphon off our presidency," he said during a television debate on Sunday, using a term for illegal asset stripping coined when he was prime minister in the 1990s.

He added that the EU presidency was anyway "meaningless." "It is prestigious, but not for the countries. It is prestigious for the few politicians who go to Brussels 12 times per month," he was reported as saying by AFP.

If the Czech presidency had been in office during the financial crisis, it would have had "a more rational opinion …than most other European countries," Mr Klaus added, after earlier last week calling Mr Sarkozy's interventionist ideas on managing the economy "old socialism."

Croatia's EU presidency optimism beset by problems

Croatia wants to focus on economic development, connectivity, internal and external security and a globally more assertive Europe over its six-month presidency - but Brexit and the next budget negotiations may put pay to that.

Spain poised for first coalition government since Franco

Spanish caretaker prime minister and Socialist Party (PSOE) leader, Pedro Sánchez, is expected to win the second investiture vote on Tuesday - after he lost the first attempt on Sunday in an extremely tight result.

Catalan support for Sanchez breaks Spanish deadlock

Catalonia's largest separatist party to abstain during the upcoming confidence vote in the Socialist-led government in exchange for promises of political dialogue. Meanwhile a Belgian judge has suspended an arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont.

Austria's Kurz strikes coalition deal with Greens

Austria's ruling conservatives have agreed to form an unprecedented coalition government with the Greens after months of negotiations - in a deal that could foreshadow similar partnerships in Germany.

Catalan party: release leader after MEP 'immunity' verdict

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled on Thursday (19 December) that imprisoned Catalan leader, Oriol Junqueras, enjoys parliamentarian immunity as MEP, in a legal victory for the separatist movement which saw nine of its leaders jailed earlier this year.

News in Brief

  1. UK watchdog unveils online child-privacy standards
  2. Alleged 'bully' nominated for EESC presidency
  3. Greens/EFA fail to agree on accepting Catalan MEPs
  4. MEPs approve over 55 gas projects for EU funding
  5. Italy deputy PM Di Maio quits as Five Star party leader
  6. EU investment bank to keep pressure on Turkey over gas
  7. 'Rare' migrant boat from Belgium to UK sinks
  8. First annual rule of law report expected this year, Reynders said

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail
  2. What's Libya's impact on EU foreign policy?
  3. EU commission 'lacks ambition' on future conference
  4. Will US privacy-lite hollow out GDPR?
  5. Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe
  6. Why isn't Germany helping gay rights in Hungary, Poland?
  7. US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice
  8. Vienna-Brussels night train returns amid EU green talk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us