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 ...
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 is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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