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Monday, October 20, 2008

Sarko puts in for overtime

According to Belgian daily De Standaard, EU Commission President Jose Barroso is "lying awake at night" worrying about the fact that soon Nicolas Sarkozy will no longer be EU Council President. Instead, it will be the Czechs, who will take over the rotating presidency for six months from January.

So much so that apparently the EU legal services have been investigating whether or not it would be possible to extend Sarkozy’s presidency beyond December, because Barroso wants “continuity”.

Last week on his blog French journalist Jean Quatremer quoted an unnamed minister from one of the smaller countries saying: “We fear the worst with the Czech eurosceptics”, after President Vaclav Klaus said that he would not be flying the EU flag on the presidential palace during the Czech EU Presidency. You'll remember the Czech President was the only EU leader to welcome the Irish no vote and call for it to genuinely be respected.

Of course Barroso, Sarko et al have been harping on a lot over the last few years about the need for the Lisbon Treaty and the permanent EU President it would introduce. But in the last week their impatience has hit new levels as the prospect of a less than completely blinkered pro-integration EU Presidency looms in the shape of the Czech Republic.

In a press conference on Thursday Sarkozy said: “We cannot work like this, changing every six months on such important subjects… For example, on the establishment of an agreement between the Russians and the Georgians – with Bernard Kouchner, we knew exactly what was going on, all the ambiguities… it is a bit frustrating to deal with a thing like that then to not manage it afterwards.” Barroso apparently then recognised the need for “a leadership for European states” and then suggested Sarkozy become the first permanent EU President.

Clearly, attempting to strip the Czechs of their six months in the hotseat would be politically impossible, although in theory, there is some room for flexibility. In 2007 the Council agreed that: “The Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Member States concerned, may decide that a Member State may hold the Presidency during a period other than that resulting from the order established in the Annex hereto.”

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