Sarkozy takes the EU’s fight to Prague

VADIM KRAMER/AFP/Getty Images Still reeling from Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last week, EU bigwigs are now focusing on the Czech Republic, another country that has yet to ratify the treaty and appears in no hurry to do so. Badly in need of a victory, French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Prague yesterday ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
594596_080617_prague2.jpg
594596_080617_prague2.jpg

VADIM KRAMER/AFP/Getty Images

Still reeling from Irish voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last week, EU bigwigs are now focusing on the Czech Republic, another country that has yet to ratify the treaty and appears in no hurry to do so. Badly in need of a victory, French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Prague yesterday in a likely futile bid to try to nudge the reluctant Czechs to ratify as quickly as possible.

There are a few reasons to be skeptical about Lisbon's chances in the Czech Republic. First, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, though mostly a ceremonial figure, is one of Europe's leading EU skeptics and said last week that Irish voters should be congratulated for defeating what he called an "elitist artificial project."

VADIM KRAMER/AFP/Getty Images

Still reeling from Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last week, EU bigwigs are now focusing on the Czech Republic, another country that has yet to ratify the treaty and appears in no hurry to do so. Badly in need of a victory, French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Prague yesterday in a likely futile bid to try to nudge the reluctant Czechs to ratify as quickly as possible.

There are a few reasons to be skeptical about Lisbon’s chances in the Czech Republic. First, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, though mostly a ceremonial figure, is one of Europe’s leading EU skeptics and said last week that Irish voters should be congratulated for defeating what he called an “elitist artificial project.”

More importantly, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who nominally supports the treaty, is taking heat from within his fragile center-right coalition and will likely stall ratification as long as possible. There’s also speculation that Topolánek and his party are trying to stall ratification until after the Czechs get their crack at the EU presidency in January. (Under the new treaty, meetings would be chaired by the new, permanent European Council president, not rotating member states.)

France’s hard-sell tactics may also be backfiring. Diplomats say that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s involvement in the lead-up to the Irish vote was counterproductive for the “yes” camp there. And Czech politicians aren’t happy about Sarkozy’s diplomatic offensive.

It certainly makes sense that the Irish and the Czechs don’t appreciate being pushed around by “old Europe.” But I find it ironic that two of the countries that have benefited the most from EU membership might be shutting the door on its future development.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.