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The 2009 Czech EU Presidency: Contested Leadership

Král, David and Řiháčková, Věra and Bartovic, Vladimir
The Czech Presidency of the European Union (EU) in the first half of 2009 coincided with a number of events that posed great challenges to Czech leadership abilities. Being the second country to hold the presidency out of the three that make up the Trio, the Czech Republic had a hard act to follow after the decisively active French Presidency dominated by its determined President, Nicholas Sarkozy.

If such were the concerns of the Czech Presidency when it took over at the helm of the EU in January 2009, it would soon become clear that the prevailing tension in the domestic political context in the Czech Republic would pose an even larger challenge to the presidency and eventually bring the sitting government to fall mid-way through the six month period.

As in previous presidencies, the Czech government had to face a number of external challenges. In January, the in-coming presidency had to deal with three hot dossiers: the gas crisis sparked off by a dispute between Ukraine and Russia; the flaring up of hostilities in the Gaza Strip; and the handling of the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. As concerns the domestic dimension of Czech EU policy, the fate of the hotly contested Lisbon Treaty and the government’s inability to secure its ratification in parliament dominated the political scene and clearly weakened the Topolanek leadership.

Despite the internal political difficulties, the Czech presidency still managed to push a number of policy dossiers forward, mainly in the economic domain, which speaks to the resilience of the EU political and administrative system. The Czech Presidency of the EU, however, reminds us that domestic politics are part and parcel of the EU, and create for good or bad, a direct link between policy-making on the national and European levels.

The Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies publishes twice a year a report on the incumbent national presidency of the EU focusing on the presidencies priorities and ongoing European agenda on the one hand, and on the influence of domestic politics and external event on the other.
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Contributor: EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy - http://www.europeum.org
Topic: Politics and Governance
Country: Czech Republic
Document Type: Political Analyses and Commentaries
Year: 2009
Keywords: Cross-Boarder Cooperation, EU Policy, energy Policy, Market Economy
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