The New Year will see the Czech Repbublic take over the presidency of the EU from France, for what promises to be a very challenging stint at the helm.
Prague has to contend with the economic crisis, European Parliamentary elections and the stalled Lisbon Treaty. TV ads have been trying to raise awareness about the country’s new role, but Czechs remain divided over fundamental EU issues. Led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s weakened minority government, the Czech Republic has not yet ratified the Lisbon Treaty, aimed at reforming Europe’s institutions. Topolanek is at odds with President Vaclav Klaus, who has demonstrated his Eurosceptic leanings by refusing to fly the EU flag at his official residence in Prague. His stance reflects a split within the country. “I am Eurosceptic. I think that every nation of the EU should have its own privileges and one of them is to fly only our own flags,” said one man in Prague. “I think that the presidency means that we, as a nation, will become more visible. The main thing we have to hope for is that our prime minister does a good job,” said another. The Czech presidency is expected to contrast sharply with that of its predecessor, whose leader appeared to relish France’s role.