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Cablegate: C-Re7-01700: Czech Eu Presidency Priorities -

VZCZCXRO0840
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHPG #1151/01 2891554
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161554Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9716
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRAGUE 001151

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EUR/NCE FOR ALEX TRATENSEK, INR/EU FOR ED KEETON, EUR/ERA
FOR NATHANIEL DEAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EUN EZ ECON
SUBJECT: C-RE7-01700: CZECH EU PRESIDENCY PRIORITIES -
"EUROPE WITHOUT BARRIERS"

REF: A. PRAGUE 1089
B. PRAGUE 922
C. PRAGUE 103

1. (U) During a meeting with Embassy Officials, Michal
Sedlacek of the Office of the Czech Deputy Prime Minister for
EU Affairs, outlined a range of issues related to the Czech
EU Presidency, which commences January 1, 2009. Of key
interest are the five priorities for the Czechs -
Competitiveness of the EU, Energy Security and
Sustainability, Reform of the EU Budget and Agricultural
Policy, Foreign Policy (Transatlantic Relations, the Balkans,
and the Eastern Neighborhood), and Third Pillar issues
(immigration and the post-Hague Program) - and what is not on
the agenda - Russia, nor Promotion of Human Rights and
Democracy.

----------
EU Competitiveness, Budget Reform and Ag Policy
----------

2. (SBU) As EU competitiveness is the top priority for the
Czechs, Sedlacek stated that in this area the Czechs will
focus on the free movement of capital and labor, in keeping
with the overall theme for the Czech EU Presidency "Europe
Without Barriers." They also plan to press for re-evaluation
of EU funding allocations. As one example, Sedlacek noted
that the Czechs would like to see a greater proportion of EU
funds allocated for educational purposes. This also folds in
with the Czech priority of "Reform of the EU Budget and
Agricultural Policy." Although EU Agricultural Policy is up
for EU discussion prior to Czech assumption of the
Presidency, Sedlacek acknowledged that the French are likely
to face the same credibility problems that the British
encountered during the last debate on Agricultural Policy.
The Czechs fully anticipate that this issue will remain
unresolved in 2008 and fall to their Presidency in 2009.
Comment: We can expect that the new Czech Ambassador to the
EU, Milena Vicenova, as the former Czech Minister of
Agriculture, will be actively engaged in Brussels in this
area (reftel A). End Comment.

----------
Balkans, Eastern Neighborhood, Transatlantic Relations
----------

3. (SBU) In the area of foreign policy, the Czechs have three
priorities - The Balkans, the Eastern Neighborhood and
Transatlantic Relations. Sedlacek acknowledged the
importance of getting things right now on Kosovo as he fully
expects the Kosovars to declare independence in December, if
nothing comes of the ongoing negotiations. The Czechs
recognize the impending train wreck of a Kosovar declaration
without a united EU position on how to respond and worry that
this lack of EU consensus is allowing Russia, by default, to
manipulate the situation in unhelpful ways. The GOCR thus
believes the situation of the entire region will require
attention for quite some time to come. The key Eastern
Neighborhood countries for the Czechs are Belarus (where the
Czechs are notably engaged promoting the concepts of
democracy and human rights), Ukraine and Moldova. Other than
"enhancing" transatlantic relations, the Czechs lack
specifics at this moment as to what and how they wish to work
with us in this area. Sedlacek noted, however, that the
Czechs expect the French to take an active, and overall
constructive approach to transatlantic relations.

----------
Third Pillar - A "Free and Secure" Europe
----------

4. (SBU) The Czechs seek to advance the idea of a "Free and
Secure" Europe and immigration will be a major topic of
discussion. Sedlacek's reference to the post-Hague program,
indicates Czech interest in addressing database
sharing/privacy rights issues.

5. (SBU) Interestingly, it appears that the Czechs have some
reservations about Third Pillar EU competencies. Sedlacek
stated that the Czechs and Poles have both explored Article
10, which allows the European Commission to sue within the
European Court of Law to force a country to implement EU
legislation, if that country does not act in a sufficiently
expeditious manner. Both countries apparently have serious
reservations about this article and would like to have an opt
out, along the lines of what Britain is allowed. How, or
even whether, they will pursue this interest was not
clarified.

PRAGUE 00001151 002 OF 002

----------
Reform Treaty - To Steadily Advance
----------

6. (U) Sedlacek indicated that the "Reform Treaty" was
initially the Czech government's sixth priority, but the
Czech Government dropped this as an issue since they do not
expect changes to the June draft. They predict that things
will proceed on course at the Intergovernmental Conference of
the Heads of State or Government October 18 in Lisbon,
followed by a ceremonial treaty signing in December. The
only controversy, in Sedlacek's mind, is how this will be
ratified by EU member states - whether by public referenda or
by member state parliaments - and when it will be implemented.

7. (U) The Czechs have spoken with the French (who hold the
EU Presidency from June 2008 and who are eager to proceed
with implementation of the treaty with all due haste), to
indicate that the Czechs think given the upcoming EU
Parliamentary Elections anticipated in June 2009 and the
formation of a new EU Commission soon thereafter, that
implementation of the treaty should not commence before this
point in time. Comment: The Czechs also desire this date
because they wish to have their Prime Minister preside over
the European Council during their first-ever EU Presidency,
rather than a President selected by EU members, as foreseen
in the Reform Treaty. End Comment.

----------
Notably Unstated - Human Rights and Russia
----------

8. (SBU) While the Czechs are fierce advocates for Human
Rights and Democracy issues, these issues do not figure in
their stated top priorities, except perhaps tangentially in
the foreign policy area. For the Czechs, advancing relations
with the EU's Eastern Neighborhood, will very likely involve
a discussion of Democracy and Human Rights issues in Belarus.
Also of interest is the fact that the Czechs have not
prioritized relations with Russia as a key issue. When
queried about this, Sedlacek referenced the GOCR priority of
"Energy Security and Sustainability." He did not, however, go
into further depth on how they plan to address Energy
Security, and even so, this topic involves only one of
numerous aspects of the EU's relationship with Russia.

----------
Comment - The Right Moves
----------

9. (SBU) Preparations for the Czech EU Presidency, while
nascent and still 15 months off, are commencing on the right
foot. The GOCR has identified skilled and experienced
diplomats here in Prague within the Deputy Prime Minister's
office and the MFA to lead the preparations. These offices
are currently small, but will grow since additional staff
have been allocated. As well, the Czechs have begun meeting
with the French and Swedes to coordinate on EU Presidency
matters. At this point, the Czechs have deliberated defined
their agenda broadly since they fully anticipate that world
events over the next year, particularly in the foreign policy
sphere, as well as key EU events (EU Parliament elections, EU
Commission selection, appointment of a new High Rep for CFSP,
etc.) could force the Czechs to reshape their agenda.
Graber

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