PositionCzech Social Democratic Party - European Parliament - Interview

The Czech Republic is the second new member state to assume the Presidency of the EU. Can it learn anything from Slovenia's experience?

Six months ago, Slovenia showed us that small, new member states are able to accomplish their mandate with success. Despite this, the Czech Republic will face several challenges and not only because the international context has changed and we have experienced several crises. The main difference between Slovenia and my country is the attitude of our leaders towards the EU. They are Eurosceptics, the most extreme being the head of state, but so too is the ODS [centre-rightaCivic Democratic Party] government. The coalition in power is not stable. It has a small majority and has to fight for every piece of legislation. We are taking over from France, which set a very high standard. If we could collaborate, we may succeed. I don't think that the Czech Republic is fully prepared. At administrative level, we will be ready, but we may experience problems at state level. Our government, for example, is very anti-Russian. Can you imagine the consequences in a conflict such as we experienced this summer with Georgia? I would not be surprised if Russia were to say But who are you? We don't want to talk to you'.

The ODS is using the US radar issue as blackmail for obtaining ratification of the treaty...

Our Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, signed the Lisbon Treaty, as did his 26 colleagues, and promised to complete the ratification before the end of 2008. But during the ODS congress, at the beginning of December, a resolution was adopted in favour of ratification with the United States on the deployment of anti-radar missiles and then, only then, the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. The ODS party has therefore linked two unrelated questions. We don't want to accept the radar because we feel that the question merits a debate at European level. We are, on the other hand, in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. But the problem is that Mr Topolanek and his party want the radar, but not the treaty They think they can use blackmail to get the radar. We intend to oppose it.

But if you do, the treaty may be rejected.

[pause] We can't say yes to the radar if we think the idea is absurd. The system costs millions of dollars, but it doesn't work. The Bush administration had said that it was intended for use against Iran, but Iran doesn't have such weapons. Then, the Russians started to worry thinking the radar was aimed directly at...

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