Czechs inherit turmoil along with EU presidency
With the deepening crisis on several fronts in the International Politics, French President Nicolas Sarkozy must be happy to relinquish the responsibility of European Presidency.
The New Year marks the Czech Republic term for the roating European Union Presidency on Jan 1. The Czech leadership will have to tackle with many pressing issues, including the Gaza crisis and the economic downturn.
The Czech Republic took the helm of the European Union on Thursday for a six-month stint in which it must help the bloc tackle its worst economic crisis in generations and deal with renewed conflict in the Middle East.
Following the initiative-filled tenure of France -- whose President Nicolas Sarkozy jousted with issues from financial turmoil to climate change -- the Czechs have raised concern among some EU states over their ability to lead.
The Czechs have tried to quell those fears, identifying main priorities as the economy, external relations and energy, the last of which may come into play soon as Russia threatens to stop gas supplies to Ukraine, a major transit state to the EU.
"Sarkozy has already called Prime Minister Topolanek and he congratulated him," Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said on live television.
He then lit a huge metronome above Prague, the symbol of the Czech presidency, although the ceremony was relatively low key and the official launch will take place on January 7.
The ex-communist state of 10 million people has suffered only a glancing blow from the economic crisis that has wreaked havoc across the rest of the bloc's 495 million population in the form of plummeting markets, bank bailouts, and job losses.