Czech Presidency of the EU: Was it really so bad?

Or maybe not. Czech Presidency will end on July 1st.

Questions:

1. What were the brightest and darkest hours of Czech presidency?

2. If you compare Czech presidency with other EU presidencies in the past was it really SO bad or even the worst one as some people suggest and if yes or no why?

3. Is there any lesson EU should learn from Czech presidency?

Answers:

Roy Ginsberg, Professor of Government, Skidmore College, Author of the book Demystifying the European Union: The Enduring Logic of Regional Integration

1. Positive

Hosting the visit of president Obama to Prague for the EU- U.S. summit.

Managing to maintain the day to day work of the EU even as the government fell and the president of the country continued to attempt to undermine the will of the member states and their citizens to complete the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, a treaty that would make the eu more efficient and democratic.

2. Negative

Frankly it reflected poorly on domestic Czech politics for the opposition to bring down the government while holding the EU presidency. It was important for the country to demonstrate it could lead Europe. Such an action could have been postponed until after the end of the presidency. I know how hard and how long the Czechs have been preparing for a successful presidency. What the EU really needed from the Czech presidency was leadership during a very difficult time in the history of the EU-the global financial crisis and recession, the energy crisis with the Russians, and the negotiations to ease a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty, not to mention having to deal with the crisis in Georgia, the continuing challenges in the western Balkan, and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Not only did the government fall but the Czech head of state has made statements in opposition to the Lisbon treaty which undermines European unity and the democratic process of negotiating and ratifying Lisbon. The experience of the Czech presidency really makes one think, my, the Europeans really need the Lisbon treaty to end the six-monthly rotating presidency and replace it with a 2.5 year appointed presidency to avoid, among other things, what happened during the Czech EU presidency.

It is difficult enough under normal circumstances for a small member state or any member states to run the EU presidency, but to do so during a nasty domestic political crisis is doubly difficult. The Czech foreign affairs and governmental bureaucracies managed to keep the eu presidency going and deserve credit for their efforts. The Swedes are expected to do a good job with their presidency.

3. Yes. The EU members should ratify and implement the Lisbon treaty — it will be good for Europe and good for the world for the EU to have more focused/continuous leadership without being subject to the kind of disruptions caused during the Czech presidency. Domestic political turmoil is the prerogative of any EU member state, but it should not adversely affect the entire EU during a six-month presidency. There is too much at stake with a union of nearly 500 million and a membership of 27.

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