Relief as Czech eurosceptic will not chair EU-US summit

FEARS that eurosceptic Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who denies the science behind global warming, would chair the EU-US summit were allayed ahead of Sunday’s meeting where climate change will be one of the main topics.

Instead Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek will assume the role.

Energy security and climate change are about the only topics left for EU leaders to discuss with US President Barack Obama at their summit in Prague, as most of the other issues will have been dealt with at the G20 and Nato summits.

The Czechs, as current holders of the rotating six-month EU presidency, were also desperately trying to convince the 27 EU leaders that they should not all speak during the two-hour-long summit.

“There is limited time and a lot of leaders in one room. We always talk about the need to speak with one voice in the EU so we have engaged in the difficult process of trying to orchestrate it so we will not have to do a tour de table with each person making statements, repeating or conflicting with the others”, said the Czech deputy prime minister, Alexandr Vondra.

Some believe French President Nicolas Sarkozy might try to take over, especially as this is likely to be the last EU meeting chaired by Topolanek, who was forced to resign last week after losing a vote of confidence, throwing the EU presidency into turmoil.

His party, the ODS, and the opposition socialists, are desperately trying to form a coalition before the task is turned over to the eurosceptic Klaus.

Initially, when Topolanek was forced to resign, EU policymakers feared President Klaus, who denies that global warming is caused by man-made factors, would chair the meeting at a time when the US is warming to the idea of dealing with the problem.

During the week, US House lawmakers unveiled a plan to cut greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, in line with the EU’s plan. Getting the US to agree to such cuts is seen as essential to getting global agreement on climate change action in December.

The EU also wants to secure the support of the US in the area of energy security, especially since they are a key player in some of the states, including Ukraine and Georgia, through which gas and oil pipelines for the European market run.

But the EU countries have serious differences in attitudes to energy security, Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra pointed out ahead of the summit.

The issue of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran will also come up, with the US anxious to enlist EU help in the region, as will the wider Middle East, to which Taoiseach Brian Cowan is set to contribute.

Obama will give his only public speech in Prague on Sunday morning and will finish his eight-day, five-country tour by flying to Turkey that evening.


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