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Steve Chiotakis: About every half a year, the European Union gets new leadership.
Each of the member countries gets a chance to take charge, to chair major summits, broker agreements and to propose new policies. Next up: the Czech Republic. There could be a problem -- namely, the Czech president, whom you might call . . . difficult. From the European Desk in London, here's Marketplace's Stephen Beard.
Stephen Beard: Say what you like about Vaclav Klaus -- and many people have -- just don't call him boring, says analyst Graham Mather:
Graham Mather: He's a very charismatic and powerful individual. He's spikey. He can be difficult and very tough. And he can be very bitter and sarcastic and wounding.
Indeed, he has been called "the rudest man in Europe." But Americans can breath easy -- it's almost certain that while the Czechs are running the E.U., Klaus won't be insulting the U.S.
Petr Stabrawa of Global Insight:
Petr Stabrawa: Vaclav Klaus has been known for his support of the U.S., and he's always been talking very highly of the U.S. style economy.
That's one of the issues with Klaus and the E.U. presidency. His vociferous support for U.S. style free-market economics has upset many other E.U. leaders. So has his vehement opposition to closer European integration. He says it threatens the sovereignty of member states.
Tomas Valsek of the Center for European Reform says the E.U. is bracing itself for the Czech presidency:
Tomas Valsek: The sentiment in many parts of the E.U. is, how can we possibly allow a country which is run by an openly rabidly euroskeptic president to be running the European Union? That's a contradiction in terms.
Klaus has contradicted a lot of E.U. policy. He's criticized the European stimulus package. He's attacked the E.U. initiative on global warming. He thinks climate change is a myth.
The Czech presidency could be a disaster, says Gideon Rackman of The Financial Times:
Gideon Rackman: It's important to the E.U. to appear to be acting in a kind of coherent, unified and decisive fashion and not to be a laughing stock. And I fear with Klaus in the chair, a lot of these meetings could degenerate into farce.
Klaus himself has predicted that the Czech presidency of the E.U. will achieve nothing of any significance. His critics say that's a safe prediction -- Klaus will be doing everything in his power to prevent anything of significance from being achieved.
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.