The normal rule that EU Presidencies have a rallying effect and damp down domestic political conflict is barely perceptible on the Czech political scene. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek leads his factious right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and his fragile government coalition into the six-month term with many of their problems papered over at best.

The pre-Presidency refrain in Prague diplomatic circles is that while officials seem prepared for the task, the politicians well, they prefer not to comment.

The three-way governing coalition between the ODS, the Christian Democrats and the Greens only won a confidence vote at the start of 2007 thanks to two rebel Socialists after an election tie between left and right in the lower chamber. Since then, splits within all three parties mean that a majority for almost any topic is uncertain.

While it should stay the EU course, partly because the onus is on the opposition to muster a majority to overthrow it, the Presidency is likely to fuel coalition tensions as much cool as them down for fear of the disgrace and electoral annihilation that the government's downfall would bring.

Parties within the coalition have different and sometimes conflicting goals for the Presidency, which are likely to flare up as battles within it.


The clearest rift is between the Green Party and its energetic leader, Martin Bursik. He sees the Presidency as an opportunity to win backing from the rest of the world, and particularly the new US president, for the EU's formula to counter climate change. But the EU's energy-climate change package has been attacked by the Brussels-averse Civic Democrat Industry Minister, Martin Riman, with most of his party sharing that stand.

Any moves to boost nuclear power prospects at an EU level, a pet topic for Topolanek, as part of the Czech drive to improve energy security can also be expected to open up rifts with the Greens.

The Lisbon Treaty automatically creates frictions between the main governing party, the ODS, which sees no hurry to ratify before the final Irish position is clear, and the Christian Democrats and Greens, which would like ratification as soon as possible.

An offer from the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, for a political ceasefire for the Presidency period has been mischievously made conditional on the government ratifying Lisbon or setting a euro adoption target date.

The Civic Democrats, who also would like to barter their Lisbon backing in...

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