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Notes for the 16th Summit of Presidents of Central, Eastern and Southern European states

English Pages, 19. 6. 2009

President Tadić, Mr. Prime Minister, dear colleagues, dear friends,

I would like to thank President Tadić and the whole Serbia for the invitation to come here and for the excellent organization of this summit. I am really glad to be here and to be here as President of the Czech Republic and also as the highest representative of a country that currently holds the Presidency of the European Union. 

This year has brought many new and pressing issues on our agenda but it also has a specific symbolism. It is the year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, the 10th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s and two other neighbor countries accession to NATO, and the 5th anniversary of the  membership of first post-communist countries in the European Union. It is an important year. 

The Czech Republic assumed the EU Presidency in a difficult moment of a very deep financial and economic crisis. I am sure we will talk about it. We tried to coordinate the very diverse and sometimes too rash reactions to the crisis coming from individual member-countries, to keep them rational, to balance their hypothetical short-term benefits with their long-term unpleasant costs. The crisis  will be sooner or later over, but its long-term consequences – the consequences of measures to mitigate the crisis – will be with us for a much longer time. 

Our presidency was full of events. Immediately at the beginning, we had to deal with the – to my great regret not yet resolved  - Ukraine–Russia dispute about gas deliveries. We had to be actively involved in the efforts to calm down the conflict in Gaza. We succeeded in putting together an important EU-US summit, the first EU meeting with President Obama. We established a new promising initiative – the EU Eastern Partnership. During the month of May, I chaired the EU troika summits with Japan, China, Russia and the Republic of Korea, and day before yesterday with Pakistan ad Jordan which – I believe – sent positive signals that the EU is outward looking, interested in trust-building with its partners, and concerned about stability in the regions that are far away from the EU borders. 

Under the slogan “Europe without barriers”, the Czech Presidency has been attempting to bring the European Union closer to a consistent implementation of its four basic freedoms: free movement of people, labor, goods and services. We are satisfied that the months of the Czech Presidency will not be characterized as an increase of protectionism and of excessive regulation, which is a positive achievement especially with regard to the economic and financial crisis. Nevertheless, I have my doubts about the rationality of proposals discussed yesterday and today in Brussels. 

The issue of enlargement and the emphasis on relations with the countries of Western Balkans has stayed on the EU agenda during the Czech Presidency. I must admit that I expected and would wish to see a greater progress in the accession talks with Croatia and I am fully aware that the territorial dispute which hinders that progress is a bilateral issue between Slovenia and Croatia. A solution which is to be viable must come from their mutual bilateral agreement. Most of our countries have their own experience with similar sensitive territorial issues. They exist among the old EU member states as well. No country should be pressed into a solution. Imported, dictated solutions proposed by international arbiters are as bad as unilateral solutions. 

We are in Serbia, in a country, which has its own tragic experience with international arbitrage and mediated solutions or solutions imposed from outside. The countries of Western Balkans do not need such solutions. I feel certain they can negotiate about their own affairs themselves. I would like to emphasize that the countries of Western Balkans have our full support for their ambitions to participate in the European integration process. 

The debate about the EU future – partly reflected in the Lisbon Treaty ratification process – about the depth and forms of European integration continues and it should continue. We do not want to block or stop this basically healthy and democratic exchange of views.

The Czech Republic does take its membership in the European Union seriously. That is why we tend to think about the issues related to our membership and discuss them. That is why we do not take everything for granted and do not accept everything unquestionably and uncritically. That is why we are concerned about the fact that the decision-making in the EU is becoming increasingly distant from the citizens, about the fact that various integration initiatives are not based on authentic interests of the member states and their citizens, but are rather prefabricated and imposed from above. There are many issues which should be open to discussion and I am grateful to President Tadić for making it possible during this summit. It gives us a unique opportunity to exchange our views on the issues which concern all of us.

Václav Klaus,  Plenary Hall in the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, Serbia, 19 June 2009


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