Monday 16 February 2009

Czech stewardship: We don’t give a damn

This blog has highlighted governments of European Union member states doing their level best to ignore the fundamental principles of European integration and loyal cooperation.

France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy entered the race to the bottom with his disregard for the internal market and its competition rules, calling French automakers home to roost and banning local ones from exiting.

The UK Home Office qualified by preventing both free movement and free speech by Dutch MP Geert Wilders, reasoning that the object of a security threat is to be excluded as the perpetrator.

The Czech government has repeatedly postponed the parliamentary ratification votes for various unrelated reasons of internal politicking. It should probably have entered this inglorious competition on past merits.

But now deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra has told the rest of Europe that it is the sovereign right of the Czech and Irish governments to delay ratification at will.

Don’t pressure us over EU treaty: Czechs, reports EUbusiness (15 February 2009):


Words like these can be expected from populists on the political fringes, but they are hardly the message to brandish if you are in office in an EU member state.

Unconcern toward the express wishes of the quasi-totality of EU governments and parliaments would be damning during the best of times.

But the European elections are coming up, and the longer the uncertainty prevails, the more complicated the composition of the European Parliament gets and the harder it will be to elect the new Commission. The new role of the High Representative and the European External Action Service are postponed, when Europe urgently needs to get its act together on the world stage.

Vondra has discredited his country, doubly so because it is in charge of the EU Council, with a moral obligation to drive forward the common interests, not pander to nationalist sentiments.

At the same time the Czech government has contributed to the survival of the rotating Council presidencies long enough to prove eloquently, why the current lottery system needs to be scrapped.


We have at least three strong government level contenders for the 2009 Esprit de Clocher UE knighthood.

Name your favourite (with reasons) or enter a new contender for the master class of gaffes.

Ralf Grahn


  1. "with a moral obligation to drive forward the common interests, not pander to nationalist sentiments".

    OK so the Czechs hold the Presidency, but the only moral obligation they have is to their own people who elected them. Nobody has a moral obligation to the European Union. Now you might contend that they should have turned down the Presidency if they were not prepared tpo go with the flow. But moral obligation? Ralph I think you go too far. Surely if their are any moral obligations floating about they are held by those governments who promised to consult their people, but failed, or those who did consult their people and promptly ignored them.

  2. Gawain,

    Thank you for commenting.

    Legally, every EU member state is bound by the obligation to cooperate sincerely (loyal cooperation).

    Once upon the time the British taught the rest of the world sportsmanship.

    Still, in my humble opinion, you join a club to play for your team, not against it.

    Additionally, your country negotiaties and signs a treaty. You see no moral obligation to get it ratified?

    Your country is in a special position of responsibility as President of the EU Council. Yet you see no moral imperative to show stewardship?

    But your comment about the Czech (Parliament and Government) being elected only by their own people makes sense in way.

    It shows why the so called double legitimacy is both artificial and flawed.

    The European Union needs real powers on the world stage, but these have to be built on real democracy at European level.

    There is much room for improvement on both fronts.


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