The European Union’s presiding nation, the Czech Republic, has sketched out its programme for the first half of this year, naming energy security as an urgent priority.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, in his role as president of the European Council, said there was no time to waste. This was in the context of Russia’s recent stranglehold on a large portion of the 27 EU states’ gas supplies. Topolanek said: “Naturally, we are interested in diversifying supply and transport routes. Building the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, for example, is an issue of the highest priority, as is support for the construction of new oil pipelines. Furthermore, we must make efforts to diversify the energy mix, including the rehabilitation of nuclear energy and investment in new technologies.” Prague’s plan to concentrate on economic recovery, energy and external relations is for the moment dominated by gas and Gaza. The first ex-Warsaw Pact country entrusted with steering EU business makes clear it will reach out to the incoming administration in Washington. “As far as trans-Atlantic relations go, it is obvious that without strengthening and developing them, the EU cannot effectively carry out its role as a strong global player, just as the United States cannot carry this out on its own,” Topolanek said: Closer to home, on institutional reform ambitions within the EU, he added: “It is also up to the Czech presidency to continue the debate with Ireland on the fate of the Lisbon Treaty. I am convinced that it is necessary to carry out these talks sensitively and with respect for the sovereignty of the Irish people.” Given their long exposure to totalitarianism, the Czechs cherish their sovereignty, and so Prague is also going about ratifying Lisbon with great care.