Sarkozy accused of hijacking Czech EU Presidency

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Weakened by electoral defeat over the weekend (24-25 October), the survivor Czech government came under attack from eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus, who accused France of planning to “siphon” the Czech EU Presidency in the first half of 2009.

Just days after it survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament (EURACTIV 23/10/08), the Czech ruling coalition led by the Civic Democrats (ODS) of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek suffered a setback over the weekend, losing its majority in the Senate. 

A third of the 81 senate seats are up for election every two years in the Czech Republic, and Topolanek’s ODS won just three of the 26 seats that were up for grabs. It still has 35 seats, but lost its majority of 41, while the opposition Social Democrats now have 29 from only six before the polls. 

Topolanek’s government, which comprises his Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Greens (SZ), does not have a majority in Parliament and relies on a dozen independent MPs. 

President Vaclav Klaus, who is co-founder of the ODS, attacked his prime minister over the “arrogance” of his governance. He also hinted at the possibility of his being replaced, comparing the political developments to the situation of Sparta Praha football club, which changed coach after a series of defeats. 

Klaus also lashed out at French President Nicolas Sarkozy for allegedly planning to “siphon” the Czech EU Presidency, which is set to begin on 1 January 2009. Klaus used the term “siphon”, which in the Czech political vocabulary refers to the depletion of national resources in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism. 

But Klaus added that for a small country, the EU presidency was of little importance. In his words, the big decisions are made by France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy. He added that these were the same countries “who wrote the Munich agreements” that allowed Hitler to annex part of Czechoslovakia in 1938. 

“It’s driving me mad that they [the government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek] want to ratify the Lisbon Treaty and climate change,” Klaus said on national television. Klaus is known for his opposition to the view that climate change is a result of human activity. 

The Czech press writes that Topolanek’s post of prime minister is under threat and that the country may face early elections, to be held together with European elections in June 2009. The future of the Lisbon Treaty ratification is also in dount. On 10 November, the Constitutional Court will make its position known, following questioning by the Senate as to the reform treaty’s conformity with the Czech constitution. 

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