Czech President Miloš Zeman has criticized the European Union, saying it
lacked strong leaders and that it used a double-standard when it came to
Crimea. He made the statement in an interview with the Russian news agency
TASS - days before he is to begin an official visit to Russia with a major
Czech business delegation.
During the visit, Mr Zeman will meet with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and also former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
In the interview, President Zeman compared Crimea to Kosovo, whose autonomy, he said, was guaranteed by the United Nations. Crimea's referendum on independence is not internationally recognized and move is seen as an illegal annexation for which Russia still suffers sanctions. Mr Zeman told TASS he was the only European politician who spoke about the issue in such a manner; the president has opposed the sanctions in the past, maintaining they did not work and should be lifted.
Twenty-three EU member states, including the Czech Republic, have signed up to a European pact on defence cooperation called Pesco (Permanent Structured Cooperation). The deal, to be formally launched in December, is likely to cover everything from troops and arms to new defence projects, with varying input from different countries.
One of the important issues discussed at the two-day EU summit in Brussels was proposed changes in the mechanism of EU decision-making, which would allow some EU members to push ahead with integration faster. For the Czech Republic, which is still outside the Eurozone, this could present a serious problem.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the European Commission
should be more impartial in its assessment of how individual member states
are meeting their obligations. During a working dinner with European
Commission President Jean-Claude Junker, attended by Visegrad Group heads
of government, Mr. Sobotka said it sometimes appeared as if the Commission
was applying a double standard and punishing countries which were perceived
as troublemakers for something other members got away with without
The dinner with the Visegrad Group leaders, held on the eve of the EU’s October summit, is seen as an attempt to ease tensions between Brussels and the Visegrad group states which have been at loggerheads over migrant quotas and the EU’s planned directive on posted workers, which EU ministers will debate in Luxembourg on Monday.
The Czech Secretary of State for EU Affairs, Aleš Chmelař, said the two sides had agreed to intensify dialogue on sensitive issues in the future so as to ensure better understanding.
The EU’s October summit is focussing on EU reforms, the migrant crisis, the functioning of Schengen and the common market and the need to strengthen cooperation in the field of defence.
The Czech government has approved the country’s involvement in
preparations for greater cooperation in European defence as part of the
Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) structure.
The state secretary for European affairs, Aleš Chmelař, told journalists on Wednesday that the PESCO would formally get underway in December. Officials say the initiative on cooperation will allow for more efficient use of defence budgets.
The government also rubber-stamped Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka's mandate for a European Union summit in Brussels at the end of next week.
Prague offers satisfactory office space and good transport facilities as a
possible site for the European Banking Authority (EBA) according to an
evaluation released by the European Commission.
But it says the quality of facilities for healthcare and education of the families of employees still has to be evaluated further.
Prague is seeking to be selected as the site for the European agency once it has to move from London as a result of Brexit.
Other European cities, including Vienna, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, Luxembourg, and Warsaw are also seeking to host the agency. A decision is expected in November.
The EU needs to speed up its decision-making and improve communication in
many areas, EU leaders agreed at an informal diner in Tallinn ahead of
Friday’s EU summit.
Prime Minister Sobotka said that while none of the leaders present expressed a desire to change the basic treaties of the EU, there was criticism regarding communication and how long it took to reach agreement on issues such as security, migration or salaries across the EU.
It was agreed that the President of the European Council Donald Tusk should address the matter and suggest changes which are to be discussed at October’s EU summit in Brussels, Sobotka said. EU leaders are meeting in Tallinn to discuss Europe's digital future.