With the New Year dawning across Europe, already several crises are competing for headlines. Buried somewhere in the news, you might have read that the United States is not the only international actor facing a transition of power–change is afoot in the European Union as well. From the conflict in Gaza to the ongoing global economic woes, the Europeans appear determined to play a leading role–that is, if internal squabbling doesn’t get in the way first. Already, some are concerned that the EU’s role in world affairs may not be as “dynamic” as it was just last month.
That’s because as of January 1, the EU presidency rotated out of the hands of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. As EU leadership moves from Paris to Prague, a degree of consternation seems to be moving across the continent as well.The UK Times Online reports over the weekend on some of the sniping taking place. From the recent conflict in Georgia, to Russia again shutting off gas supplies to Ukraine in the midst of winter, one need not look far to find trouble brewing.
The criticism in the UK Times article, however, mainly centered on criticism of the outspoken Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce critic of global warming alarmism and member of the eurosceptic movement. For his part, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek–who will actually hold the EU presidency, told EurActiv.com that the fixation on Klaus’ views sometimes borders on “obsessive.” The Czech PM promised to make dealing with Russia–and its attempts to intervene in the EU’s security and energy policy–a priority of the Czech EU presidency. Like previous rows inside the EU, it may simply be that a conflict of personalities is the real culprit here. With the challenges the EU faces in its own backyard, it should be hoped the Czech PM can overcome such obstacles, and begin charting a new course.
Mr. Bell is a U.S. Fulbright Fellow to Austria, and MPA student at Seattle University.