Klaus not to chair EU leaders summit
By Honor Mahony
Czech President Vaclav Klaus will not chair a high-profile meeting of EU leaders in June, his office has announced.
Mr Klaus "proposed that Prime Minister Jan Fischer should chair June's EU summit in Brussels on behalf of the Czech presidency," his office said in a statement.
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"The president has full trust in the prime minister and has no doubt that he will handle this role easily and with success."
The move is likely to be greeted with relief by EU diplomats who feared the president would use the gathering to air his strong opposition to the EU's Lisbon treaty, compounding what many view as a damaging past few months for the bloc under the gaffe-prone Czech presidency.
The summit chair became the hot topic of conversation in Brussels after the Czech government fell in March due to a vote of no confidence.
At the meeting EU leaders are due to sign off a series of treaty guarantees on tax, neutrality and ethical issues as part of a political package for Ireland, whose citizens will vote on the Lisbon document for a second time in the autumn, having rejected it last year.
There had been talk of moving the summit to July when it would be chaired by next EU presidency country Sweden.
Ireland, which had favoured keeping the summit in June for domestic timetable reasons, has been working on fast-tracking its treaty guarantees so that they would be agreed before the summit.
The Klaus-Fischer agreement will instead see the maverick Czech president chair the EU-Russia and EU-China summits.
Austria's highest honour
But even as Mr Klaus has attracted criticism in some parts of the EU, he is winning awards in others.
Austria's Wiener Zeitung reports that the Czech president will receive the country's highest honour, the Great Honorary Star for Achievements for the Republic of Austria.
The gong, agreed by the government on Wednesday, is in recognition of Mr Klaus' efforts to overcome communism, a spokesperson for Austria's president said.