A mixed assessment of France and high expectations for the Czech Presidency

Continuation of the ratification process and the agreement on the new referendum in Ireland is regarded as a major success of the French Presidency in Croatia

Tak­ing into account glob­al chal­lenges that occurred dur­ing the French Pres­i­den­cy, its pre-defined pri­or­i­ties and Croa­t­ian focus on acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions, var­i­ous seg­ments of Croa­t­ian pub­lic eval­u­ate dif­fer­ent­ly the achieve­ments of the French Pres­i­den­cy. Despite the fact that the enlarge­ment process was not amongst the main pri­or­i­ties of the French Pres­i­den­cy, its results are viewed from the per­spec­tive of acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions, which are amongst Croa­t­i­a’s top pri­or­i­ties.

The main pri­or­i­ties of the French Pres­i­den­cy (ener­gy-cli­mate pack­age, Euro­pean ener­gy pol­i­cy, migra­tion, area of free­dom, secu­ri­ty and jus­tice, Com­mon Agri­cul­tur­al Pol­i­cy and the Union for the Mediter­ranean) were offi­cial­ly pre­sent­ed by French Ambas­sador in Zagreb, François Saint-Paul and head of the del­e­ga­tion, Vin­cent Degert.[1] The pre­sen­ta­tion also out­lined the Presidency’s approach to one of the first chal­lenges the Pres­i­den­cy had to deal with: Irish ‘No’. The results of the Irish ref­er­en­dum were pre­sent­ed in the media as a seri­ous threat to Croa­t­ian acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions, despite the announce­ment of the French Ambas­sador that France had no inten­tion of slow­ing down Croa­t­ian EU acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions because of the Irish ‘No’. The same view was sup­port­ed by Prime Min­is­ter Sanad­er, who con­sid­ered that it would have no impli­ca­tions on Croa­t­i­a’s acces­sion process.[2]

In this con­text, con­tin­u­a­tion of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process and the agree­ment on new ref­er­en­dum in Ire­land is regard­ed as a suc­cess of the French Presidency.[3]

On the oth­er hand, the activ­i­ties of the pres­i­den­cy dur­ing the Rus­sia-Geor­gia war were regard­ed as more crit­i­cal, despite the fact that the French EU Pres­i­den­cy helped reach a cease-fire agreement.[4] The EU sum­mit held on this issue was regard­ed as rather rhetoric, with­out a strong com­mon posi­tion on the issue,[5] because there were no sanc­tions for Russia.[6]

With regard to the finan­cial cri­sis, ini­tial­ly a dom­i­nant view in Croa­t­ian media was that the role of the French Pres­i­den­cy was lim­it­ed, while the oth­er EU insti­tu­tions, pri­mar­i­ly the Commission[7] or the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and mem­ber states (pri­mar­i­ly Great Britain and Ger­many) were more active.[8] The per­cep­tion changed lat­er on as France active­ly facil­i­tat­ed the har­mon­i­sa­tion of ideas; agree­ment on com­mon EU approach at the G20 summit[9] and adop­tion of recov­ery plan at Decem­ber sum­mit, acknowl­edged as major achieve­ment of the Presidency.[10] The adop­tion of the Recov­ery Plan has also been con­sid­ered impor­tant from Croatia’s acces­sion coun­try perspective,[11] because enlarge­ment fatigue might also be con­nect­ed with the crisis.[12]

The pre-defined polit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties of the French Pres­i­den­cy received more atten­tion at the sixth min­is­te­r­i­al forum “Jus­tice and Home Affairs — The EU and the West­ern Balka­ns”, held in Zagreb 6–7 Novem­ber 2008, where the French Pres­i­den­cy pre­sent­ed the Euro­pean Pact on Immi­gra­tion and Asy­lum, which had been adopt­ed by the Euro­pean Coun­cil on 16 Octo­ber 2008.[13]

The efforts towards an agree­ment on an Ener­gy-Cli­mate Pack­age were close­ly mon­i­tored. The French ini­tia­tive to allow free CO2 allo­ca­tion in new mem­ber states had been per­ceived as an attempt of the French Pres­i­den­cy to con­clude “green rev­o­lu­tion” talks.[14] Media report­ed that adop­tion of the Cli­mate-Ener­gy Pack­age is one of the major achieve­ments of the presidency.[15]

The estab­lish­ment of the Union for the Mediter­ranean also received sig­nif­i­cant media coverage.[16] It is con­sid­ered as an impe­tus for the devel­op­ment of trans­port routes and sea ports, envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion of the sea, and pro­posed estab­lish­ment of solar fund.[17] The Gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers that the Union for the Mediter­ranean is ful­ly com­pat­i­ble with Croa­t­ian for­eign pol­i­cy goals.[18]

The chal­lenges that occurred dur­ing the French Pres­i­den­cy could lead to a mul­ti-speed Europe:[19] Pro­posed mea­sures for the Euro­zone, includ­ing the estab­lish­ment of an eco­nom­ic gov­ern­ment, might lead there. A two-speed Europe was also iden­ti­fied by ana­lysts as a pos­si­ble out­come of the Irish ‘No’.[20] As it seems, the French Pres­i­den­cy man­aged to set­tle both issues, thus it appears to be rather suc­cess­ful.

Croatia’s main expec­ta­tion was to open all or near­ly all chap­ters dur­ing the pres­i­den­cy and to receive ten­ta­tive dates for final­iz­ing negotiations.[21]

Gen­er­al­ly sup­port­ive of Croa­t­i­a’s inte­gra­tion towards the EU, the French Pres­i­den­cy faced chal­lenges relat­ed to Slovenia’s reluc­tance to sep­a­rate bilat­er­al issues from the acces­sion process.[22] The involve­ment of the French Pres­i­den­cy in this respect was very much appreciated.[23] An indica­tive road map for con­clud­ing acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions by the end of 2009 is con­sid­ered as “an impor­tant sig­nal to Croa­t­ia and an unequiv­o­cal message”[24] by the gov­ern­ment.

The French Pres­i­den­cy was marked by major crises that might have long-term con­se­quences for the inter­nal cohe­sion of the EU and also on the speed and suc­cess of Croatia’s inte­gra­tion process. The French Pres­i­den­cy was able to man­age the crises which might be regard­ed as the main strength of the pres­i­den­cy.

Croats have high expectations from the Czech Presidency

Croa­t­ia has very high expec­ta­tions on the out­come of the Czech Pres­i­den­cy, although it is tak­ing place in a peri­od of a very inten­sive glob­al eco­nom­ic cri­sis and decel­er­a­tion of eco­nom­ic growth, insti­tu­tion­al chal­lenges linked to the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty and spring elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

The Czech Presidency’s pri­or­i­ties were dis­cussed and pre­sent­ed in Croa­t­ia on two round table dis­cus­sions. The first one was organ­ised by the “Hein­rich Böll Foun­da­tion”, which start­ed recent­ly a series of pub­lic debates enti­tled Euro­ta­tions in dif­fer­ent Croa­t­ian towns, which focused on pri­or­i­ties of the upcom­ing pres­i­den­cy and its impacts on Croa­t­ia. The debate was intro­duced by the Czech and French ambas­sador to Croa­t­ia as well as by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the aca­d­e­m­ic society.[25] With­in the three pri­or­i­ties of the Czech pres­i­den­cy (econ­o­my, ener­gy and the EU in the world), the con­tin­ued devel­op­ment of nego­ti­a­tions between Croa­t­ia and the EU are high­ly posi­tioned which is very much wel­comed in Croa­t­ia, stressed Ves­na Pusic, head of the Nation­al Com­mit­tee for Mon­i­tor­ing the Nego­ti­a­tions. Croa­t­ia expects to focus on con­clud­ing nego­ti­at­ing chap­ters dur­ing the Czech Pres­i­den­cy, mean­ing that all the inter­nal reforms should be com­plet­ed by the end of the com­ing pres­i­den­cy. The mes­sage of the dis­cus­sion expressed by Neven Šan­tić, jour­nal­ist and mod­er­a­tor of the round table was that the Czech Repub­lic will try to speed up the nego­ti­a­tion process, expect­ing required progress in reforms made by the Croa­t­ian government.[26] How­ev­er, as an obsta­cle to the future effec­tive­ness of the Czech Pres­i­den­cy, Dr. Damir Gru­bisa men­tioned the unsta­ble major­i­ty of the Prime Min­is­ter Mirek Topolánek and the strong euroscep­tic atti­tude of Pres­i­dent Václav Klaus as well as the fact that the Czech Repub­lic is among the very few coun­tries which have not offi­cial­ly rat­i­fied the Lis­bon Treaty.[27]

The Czech Presidency’s pri­or­i­ties were also intro­duced in the Del­e­ga­tion of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in Zagreb. Among the Czech pri­or­i­ties are the fur­ther devel­op­ment of the nego­ti­a­tions with Croa­t­ia and find­ing a way to unblock it from the Sloven­ian side. The Czech Repub­lic sup­ports Croa­t­ian acces­sion through the shar­ing of knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence gained in its own acces­sion, said Mr. Karel Kühnl, Czech ambas­sador to Croatia.[28] One of the tasks of the pres­i­den­cy is to pro­vide neu­tral space for find­ing a solu­tion to the block­ade that Croa­t­ia has encoun­tered in its nego­ti­a­tions with the EU, added Mr. Karel Kühnl. Since the bor­der dis­pute between Croa­t­ia and Slove­nia is not a part of the EU’s acquis com­mu­nau­taire, the coun­tries should find the solu­tion and make a final deci­sion them­selves. There are no rea­sons for post­pon­ing Croatia’s acces­sion to the EU due to bilat­er­al rea­sons and the Czech Pres­i­den­cy will try to cre­ate an oppor­tu­ni­ty and a posi­tion accept­able for both sides, said Czech ambas­sador to Croa­t­ia, Karel Kühnl.[29]



[1] Press con­fer­ence on the pri­or­i­ties of the French Pres­i­den­cy, avail­able at: http://www.ambafrance.hr/spip.php?article950 (last access: 3 Decem­ber 2008).
[2] State­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Sanad­er, 09 Octo­ber 2008, government’s web por­tal, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.hr/hr/naslovnica/novosti_i_najave/2008/listopad/predsjednik_vlade_irski_referendum_ne_bi_trebao_biti_problem_za_hrvatsku (last access: 10 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[3] “Irs­ka raspisu­je novi ref­er­en­dum o EU”, t‑portal, 11 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.tportal.hr/vijesti/svijet/2640/Irska-ide-na-novi-referendum-o-EU.html (last access: 20 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] “Počeo EU mon­i­tor­ing u Južnoj Oseti­ji i Abhaz­i­ji”, Vjes­nik dai­ly, 1 Octo­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.vjesnik.hr/Html/2008/10/01/Clanak.asp?r=van&c=1 (last access: 20 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[5] A. Palokaj in Jutarn­ji list dai­ly, 1 Sep­tem­ber 2009, avail­i­able at: http://www.jutarnji.hr/clanak/art-2008,9,1„131751.jl (last access: 20 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[6] “Bloka­da pre­gov­o­ra EU i Rusi­je”, Nacional weeky, 1 Sep­tem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.nacional.hr/clanak/48334/blokada-pregovora-eu-i-rusije (last access: 25 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[7] E.g. “Pro­tiv rece­si­je – potrošn­jom”, Slo­bod­na Dal­maci­ja, 28 Novem­ber 2008, p. 15; Vjes­nik, 27 Novem­ber 2008, p.11.
[8] Vjes­nik dai­ly, 27 Novem­ber 2008.
[9] “EU se zalaže za novi finan­cijs­ki poredak”, Deutsche Welle, 7  Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0„3772908,00.html (last access: 12 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[10] “EU postigla povi­jes­ni spo­razum o kli­mi”, ‑t-por­tal, 12. Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.tportal.hr/vijesti/svijet/2750/EU-postigla-povijesni-dogovor-o-klimi.html (last access: 20 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[11] “Plan EK za gospo­dars­ki opo­ravak odnosi se i na zapad­ni Balkan”, Lid­er press, 27 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.liderpress.hr/default.aspx?sid=61185 (last access: 20 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[12] Olli Rehn quot­ed in business.hr, avail­able at: http://business.hr/Default2.aspx?ArticleID=01bf9244-c85a-4674-aab8-dd5a18aa8d6e&ref=rss (last access: 12 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[13] “Šesti min­istars­ki Forum ’Pravo­suđe i unutarn­ji poslovi — EU i Zapad­ni Balkan’”, avail­able at: http://www.ambafrance.hr/spip.php?article1005 (last access: 3 Decem­ber 2008).
[14] “Neočeki­vani dar Europske uni­je novim člani­ca­ma”, Poslovni, 26 Novem­ber 2008.
[15] “Povi­jes­ni sum­mit EU‑a s odluka­ma o Hrvatskoj”, Deutsche Welle, avail­able at: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0„3871335,00.html (last access: 7 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[16] Vjes­nik, 5 Novem­ber 2008, p.11.
[17] Vjes­nik, 4 Novem­ber 2008, p. 2.
[18] MIn­is­ter Jan­droković accord­ing to Cora­t­ian News Agency, HINA; 14 July 2008.
[19] Prof. Gru­biša, in: Europa, Prilog, stu­deni 2008 (no 67, 4 Decem­ber 2008), pp. 1, 6.
[20] Ibid., p. 6.
[21] Večern­ji list, 10 Octo­ber 2008, p.9; Web por­tal Javno, avail­able at: http://www.javno.com/en/croatia/clanak.php?id=162610 (last access: 12 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[22] Cf. “Sloveni­ja i Hrvats­ka najb­liski­je europske zeml­je”, Novi List, 29 Novem­ber 2008.
[23] Gor­dan Jan­droković, Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs of Repub­lic of Croa­t­ia, in an inter­view at Radio 101, 13 Jan­u­ary 2009; Vjes­nik, dai­ly 22 and 23 Novem­ber 2008, p. 1.
[24] Ivo Sanad­er at the 6th EU-West­ern Balka­ns Min­is­te­r­i­al con­fer­ence, Zagreb, 6 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.hr/en/naslovnica/novosti_i_najave/2008/studeni/predsjednik_vlade_na_forumu_ministara_pravosuda_i_unutarnjih_poslova_eu_zapadni_balkan (last access 12 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[25] Vis­n­ja Samardz­i­ja from the Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions and Damir Gru­biša from the Fac­ul­ty of Polit­i­cal Sci­ences gave intro­duc­tions to the debate.
[26] Neven Šan­tić: “Czech Repub­lic for Croa­t­ia in the EU”, Novi list, 28 Novem­ber 2008.
[27] Damir Gru­biša: „ Irish re-run and Czech pres­i­den­cy“, Europe, Sup­ple­ment for Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. No 68, Decem­ber 2, 2008, pp 1 and 6.
[28] Zeljko Trkan­jec: “Croa­t­ia and econ­o­my are pres­i­den­cy  pri­or­i­ties“, EU and Croa­t­ia, Spe­cial sup­ple­ment to Jutarn­ji list, 19 Jan­u­ary 2009, p 30.
[29] “Pri­or­i­ties of Czech pres­i­den­cy over EU intro­duced: Econ­o­my, ener­gy and EU in the world“, Del­e­ga­tion of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to the Repub­lic of Croa­t­ia, avail­able at: http://delhrv.ec.europa.eu/en/content/news/id/1478 (last access: 25 Feb­ru­ary 2009).