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Transatlantic Relations

In document The 2009 Czech EU Presidency: - CORE (Pldal 61-64)

4.3 Europe in the World

4.3.3 Transatlantic Relations

might also be recommended. However, in the case of Serbia, there is the unresolved problem of issuing Serbian passports to Kosovo citizens (both Albanians and Serbs) as well as to Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The former is perceived by some of the Member States as a security risk and the latter would leave mainly the Muslim community in Bosnia and Herzegovina affected by the visa regime (similarly, Croatia has been providing Croats from BiH with dual citizenship).


Although further progress in the accession negotiations with Turkey has not been among the top priorities of the Czech EU Presidency, it did plan to open at least two new negotiating chapters, concerning taxation and employment. These chapters are ‘non-problematic’ for Cyprus as they do not concern the disputed issue of the customs union between the EU and Turkey. However, their opening is conditional on adopting new legislation, which Turkey has so far failed to do. The Czech EU Presidency is trying to facilitate the resolution of the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus and has been holding negotiations with both governments, but with no significant results so far. The Czech Presidency, however, needs to have Turkey on board for the Southern Corridor initiative, which is proving difficult given that the energy negotiations are frozen. Turkey requires that the EU re-open the negotiations in the chapter being opposed by Cyprus. On 21 April 2009, a ministerial-level Troika meeting with Turkey is planned in Prague, but again no concrete results are expected.

withdraw from it altogether), and argued that the matter required broad consultation with Russia. Another issue on which Prague and Washington might not have the same views is global climate change. Although the Government finally took the issue more seriously and incorporated it into its priorities, the sceptical attitude of Václav Klaus has left some tensions with the new US administration, which will come to the fore particularly if Klaus is in charge of the EU–US Troika summit in Washington in June 2009. Similarly, the Czech Republic welcomed one of Barrack Obama’s first decisions after taking the office, the decision to close the Guantanamo Bay facility. At the same time, Interior Minister Ivan Langer signalled that the Czech Republic is not considering accepting any of the prisoners detained at the Guantanamo Bay base, reiterated on other occasions by both Prime Minister Topolánek and Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg.102 Finally, Topolánek referred to the US economic rescue package in his speech in the European Parliament on 25 March 2009 as a ‘road to hell’.

This statement, pronounced shortly ahead of the EU–US summit in Prague, received wide coverage in the international media, including on CNN.103

Prime Minister Topolánek succeeded in convincing President Obama to hold an informal EU–US summit in Prague on 5 April, following the G20 summit in London and the NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the alliance’s foundation. There was some squabbling with the Council Secretariat and some of the Member States about whether to hold the summit in Prague or Brussels. Having the summit hosted in Prague was an important diplomatic victory for the Czech Presidency, although some commentators admit that it was actually the request of former President Václav Havel that convinced the White House to agree. In any case, the summit was important symbolically rather than substantively. First, it was very short, amounting to a mere courtesy luncheon meeting summoning the heads of government 27 Member States to meet with the US President. Second, it largely involved President Obama informing EU leaders of the priorities of his administration, in which he emphasised the necessity of joint action against global climate change, of fighting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and of the inten- tion to engage in dialogue with Russia on limiting nuclear arsenals and with Iran on its nuclear programme. Barrack Obama also appealed to the

102http://domaci.ihned.cz/c1-36621900-obama-na-summitu-v-praze-unie-ma-prijmout-vezne- z-guantanama-cesko-se-zdraha.

103CNN reported on Topolánek’s statements using titles such as: ‘American–Czech controversy’ or ‘The Czech Prime Minister Attacked the American Plans’.

EU countries to accept some of the Guantanamo detainees and to increase the European commitment in Afghanistan. Another strong message was explicit support for the membership of Turkey in the EU, which was reiterated by the fact that the last stop on his European trip was Ankara.

Under the Czech Presidency, another EU–US summit is expected in the Troika format (i.e. Presidency, Commission and High Representative Solana) at the end of June 2009. There were some doubts as to whether the summit would take place at all, because there were signals from the US administration that they might want to postpone it until the new Commis- sion was in office,104though this would not be until late 2009. Another argument for postponing the summit was that the informal meeting with the 27 EU heads of state has already taken place in Prague. Nevertheless, the US administration finally agreed to have another summit as previously scheduled. Doubts were exacerbated with the fall of the Government in Prague, leading to a caretaker bureaucratic government without enough political clout to negotiate some of the controversial issues with the United States, such as the approach to the Copenhagen Conference on global climate change or further action on the economic crisis in the G20 format.

The Commission will therefore likely assume a more active role at the summit. There is also the risk that Klaus might be representing the Czech Presidency, which could lead to mixed results at best regarding both crucial issues that will probably top the agenda.

104The EU–US summits in the Troika format traditionally take place annually during the spring presidency, the location alternating between Europe and the United States.


In document The 2009 Czech EU Presidency: - CORE (Pldal 61-64)