Central Europe Activ

Czech Presidency logoThe first real Central European presidency, leaving aside tiny Slovenia’s debut, will be a good opportunity to turn the attention of the Union to the Eastern borders. The Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg started off with floating the idea to detach the issue of Serbian membership from the case of war criminal suspect General Mladic.

The EU position long has been that Serbia must allege to its guilts in the Yugoslav wars and cannot have an established relationship with the EU unless it takes the most wanted war criminal suspects to the Hague for trial. This is actually not how the EU started: in the 1950s everybody turned their faces from the Nazi crimes to let Germany rebuild a peaceful and co-operative country. Mr. Schwarzenberg’s idea, floated in Cicero, a German political monthly paper interview and widely qouted in Central Europe and Serbia, speaks in this manner.

Schwarzenberg noted that “only one Serb, General Ratko Mladic, is still wanted”.
“Just think how many murderers in my country and in your country went unpunished after World War Two. Therefore, we are not competent to say that Serbia must not be integrated over one sole murderer,” he told the German political monthly Cicero at the start of Czech EU presidency.

Mr. Schwarzenberg than adds that the possible breakout of a new conflict in the Balkans and energy dependence on Russia are threat to Europe that we must avert. I have been arguing in this blog from time to time that Serbia’s integration is the key to solving the problems of the Balkans and to put the EU in such a solid environment that it can direct its attention to more global issues.

Despite my fears that Mr. Klaus will ruin the first Central European presidency, I find this a very promising start. The priorities of the Central European countries were greatly overlooked in the past two years and I think it has already threatened the unity of the EU. Despite the ugly logo, I think this is a good kick-off.

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  1. The question (as with any presidency) is, whether the Czech Council presidency can stick to the envisaged agenda and priorities, depending on EU-internal and -external developments.

    It is also quite obvious that with the French continuing some of their activities, in particular with regard to the Gaza conflict, the Czech ability to pursue their priorities has already been limited.

  2. I agree with you only partly. I think it is important that the Czech are putting forward an agenda that is important for the Central European member states at all. And I do believe that the quote I highlighted from Mr Schwarzenberg does carry weight from a Czech.

  3. I don’t find it particularly appealing or convincing, what he says – he’s comparing different times and different people, and he is leaving the line the Union has pursued for quite some time now. This line might be wrong from a Central European (or any other) perspective, but leaving it could be interpreted as if the Union would not stick to its principles.

  4. I think this is an argument that the EU has been following a flawed principle, if you can call it. I don’t think many people in Serbia or elsewhere think it is principled that a whole country is stuck because of a fugitive. I hope the EU will change its policy.

  5. Thanks for throwing this in. I do think it merits discussion and to tell you frankly I strongly don’t agree with you on several accounts.

    There are multiple problems the Czech Presideny has in stock for us, let’s hope we will be spared of some of them. First of all their minority government is already in turmoil and may not hold, which would not only mean that there may be complete disarray in terms of EU leadership during the first half of this year but also that Klaus may nominate a Eurosceptic Premier, having proven on several accounts that he couldn’t care less about the EU and that he does not take the task of the Presidency serious. The Czech Parliament may not agree but the Czech Constitution apparently does not foresee (I just read that in an analysis in the Wiener Zeitung) a deadline for putting a new government in power. In the meantime Klaus would be the main actor during the Czech EU Presidency. And we all know what that would mean, after having him fight it out with the MEPs on his refusal to fly the EU flag on Prague Castle and his diplomatic faux-pas in Ireland.

    Secondly, Topolanek, the Czech Premier has linked the decision on the Lisbon Treaty and the law permitting the installation of the US missile defense system in their country, which is an absolute no-brainer and actually very dangerous in terms of precedent. It seems that the Czechs have problems distinguishing between their NATO and EU membership. They have already failed the first test, namely responding to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. They first called it a defensive, then insisting later that this was a misunderstanding and joining the general call for a ceasefire. Let’s hope it is not getting worse. No wonder, Sarkozy is setting off on his own.

    Concerning the Balkans, that is another no-brainer. The policy the EU and the international community has followed with regard to war crimes in the Balkans has so far been quite successful. Linking EU membership to capturing murderers like Mladic has proven the only incentive for the political establishment to stop protecting them. Finally, using the incomplete de-nazification of Germany after 45 as an argument to embrace Serbia now (and let Mladic off the hook) is simply unbelievable and shows a very strange idea of our moral imperatives in the 21st century.

    Your i-blogger

  6. Dear I-blogger,

    For me it is also mind-boggling how you can tie the present lives of 8 million people, or with their neighbors counted, a few ten millions, to the capture of a suspected (!) criminal. Since we do not know where Mr Mladic is, it may be the case theoretically that he is actually hiding within the EU. Who is to blame then? I also find it amoral in almost all known ethical systems that the people of this region collectively suffer for the alleged crimes of one person.

    I think the current European peace and prosperity, and the EU in itself would not be existent if France (or the US and the UK) would have pushed such a purist agenda in the 1950s against Mr. Adenauer what the EU currently does against Mr Tadic’s Serbia. And Mr. Tadic is the first elected Serbian leader who shares or values and actually fights war criminals. The previous such leader was killed.

    I share some of your prejudice against Mr. Klaus, he has not behaved as a competent or responsible head of state. But otherwise I think the Czech government seems to be doing the best it can. I hope the Czech parliament feels the weight of the EU presidency and will not kick out the government during this 6 months.

  7. President Klaus already stated his conditions for new.old PM, which include majority support
    in the Parliament. That means he cannot appoint Euro-skepctic – and anti-Llisbon PM.
    There is no support for that.

    President’s condition cannot be met, which means that he is forcing special elections,
    which are expected in October. That is not a bad solution, since current parliament does not
    reflect the mood of the voters any more.

    Topolanek may be asked to put together new gov, but with changes, without the chair
    of the remnant of the Greens Mr Bursik and probably without Interior guy (who with judge
    Vesecká is suspect of irrregularities in law enforcement)

    Al that is pretty much decided. One item, in the debate ‘ is Serbia – and this is just an opinion:

    Serbia should not be forgiven. Issue is not just Mladic. At he indpependence of Kosovo
    crowds WITH NO HINDRANCE from the police attempted to breach new borders by force,
    made fire (in just one room – but that is enough) in the US embassy etc.

    What is more important, they did not get it. Neither Serbians, nor Czechs, that they are
    laws (even if made ad hoc) which can be enforced. That ‘use of force’ by democracies they do not get.
    They understand Soviet style dictate, Nazi dictate, or anarchy. For both it is imperative that EU is consitent and steady.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  8. Mr Mladic is just a litmus test of the atitude of the Serbian majority.

    Majority still believe they have been singled out, unjustly:
    In 2003 Milosevic, an indicted war criminal jailed in the Hague, received 27% of the vote.
    Recently, the crowd, unhindered by police, engaged in violent acts to prevent indepemdence of Kosovo
    .. … etc

    I do not think there there is a place in EU for any nation, which is unwilling to recognize
    basic principles of the human rights, as understood by the large majority.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

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