On January 29, GMF hosted a panel discussion on the "Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU: Europe without barriers." Petr Kolar, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, gave opening remarks and provided an overview of the Czech Republic's agenda for its EU Presidency. Charles A. Kupchan, professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, responded to Kolar's remarks and presented a nuanced look at the future of transatlantic relations. Karen Donfried, executive vice president of GMF, moderated the discussion.
The event was captured and will be broadcast in an hour-long audio episode on NPR FM Berlin and NPR Worldwide the weekend of March 6. You can download program audio below:
The Czech Republic assumed its six-month tenure as the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) on January 1, 2009. Moving forward with the motto of its presidency, "Europe without barriers," Kolar identified the Czech Republic's top three priorities: the economy, energy, and external relations. Kolar added that while some perceive the Czechs as "Euroskeptics," the Czechs are committed Europeans and proud and privileged to hold the EU presidency at this time.
When the Czech Republic assumed the presidency earlier this month, it faced a crisis in all three of its priority areas. With respect to the economy, Kolar said that the global crisis is unprecedented, and that the EU needs to prevent any further deepening of the crisis through a coordinated solution at the European and global level. With respect to energy security, Kolar said the Czech presidency will strive to stabilize relations with the main foreign suppliers of energy sources, including clarifying Russia's role and developing strong relations with new suppliers. With respect to external relations, Kolar said that the transatlantic relationship is a top priority. He is looking forward to meeting with the new U.S. administration to discuss key areas of cooperation, including security, the economy, energy, and climate protection.
Bringing a Washington perspective to the question of the U.S. - EU agenda, Kupchan said that the U.S. and EU need to broaden their dialogue. He noted that the U.S. and EU are natural partners and saw a recovery in their relationship during the last four years of the Bush administration. Kupchan added that while Central Europe has occupied a significant place in U.S. foreign policy for two decades, it is hard to imagine that the U.S. will continue to put so much emphasis on that part of the world.