Today, 1 January 2009, the Czech Republic will take over from France the Presidency of the European Union (official website). The Presidency mainly consists of the responsibility for the functioning of the Council of the EU (i.e. organizing and chairing all the meetings of the Council) but has also evolved into some sort of representational duty of the EU:s work. Each separate meeting of the Council is headed by the responsible government minister of the member state holding the Presidency and the Presidency is rotated every six months; after the Czech Republic Sweden will be next in turn. After the Slovenian EU Council Presidency in early 2008, the Czech Presidency is the second one headed by one of the new east European member States.
According to the website of the Czech Presidency, Economy, Energy, and External Relations will be the main priorities.
“[E]nsuring energy security through diversification of sources, strengthening Europe’s competitiveness through promoting research and development and SMEs, developing the ‘Eastern Partnership’ and continuing the integration of the countries in the Western Balkans.”
Due to the events of the past couple of months it is hardly surprising that the Czech Presidency identified the coordination of the member States’ and the EU’s actions against the ongoing financial crisis as an important issue. To maintain confidence in the market system and support reform of the existing global institutions (e.g. IMF) are only two tools with which the Presidency wants to push for a solution. But besides the financial crisis the continuation of the reformation of the primary law of the EU/EC (i.e. the Lisbon Treaty) and (if possible) the adoption of a “European policy” towards the new US administration are likely to be essential topics. During the Czech Presidency, the member States of the EU (in cooperation with the common institutions) will have to determine how to implement the promises made towards Ireland in view of the country’s future ratification of the Lisbon Treaty (we reported earlier). Finally it is worth mentioning that the Czech Republic will be in charge of the Council when more than 700 Members of the European Parliament will be elected between 4 and 7 June 2009. The elections to the European Parliament should be taken seriously not at least due to the increasing powers the Parliament will receive once the Lisbon Treaty will enter into force.
A detailed programme for the Czech Presidency is available here.