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Czechs bow out of EU presidency to little applause

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Czechs bow out of EU presidency to little applause
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The stormy six-month boat-rocking Czech presidency of the European Union is at an end.

Many – among the 27 nation bloc – are likely to be breathing huge sighs of relief. The former Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek, whose centre-right cabinet was toppled in a no confidence motion at the end of March, has described the presidency as a “wasted opportunity”. The country’s Euro-sceptic President Vaclav Klaus went so far as to liken EU control to that of the former Soviet Union. Known for his staunch opposition to the EU’s reforming Lisbon Treaty, Klaus was often overshadowed by Topolanek who intervened to push the treaty through both houses of parliament, helping to unblock the ratification of the text. The last EU summit held under the Czech presidency paved the way for a new referendum on the treaty in Ireland where voters rejected it a year ago. Klaus is still threatening to have the final word as he is the last link in the Czech ratification chain. The treaty has to be agreed by all the member countries before it can take effect. The president says he is in no rush to sign and will wait until the last possible moment. The uncertainty over Lisbon and quirky digs at the rest of Europe, exemplified by the controversial Entropa artwork, only added to the Czech government crisis that undermined the presidency role ahead of key summits in May. Many European diplomats have classified the Czech presidency as “catastrophic”. The diplomatic community is relying on the Swedes to steady the ship.