Preparing a European Council is never easy, but this time it seems extremely difficult. Few will envy Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister. After Ireland voted yes to the Lisbon Treaty, the prospects for the EU Summit 29-30 October looked bright. Then Vaclav Klaus put forward his demands for concluding the Czech ratification process.
Yesterday, Vaclav Klaus made clear that he will not block the ratification until after the UK elections. He also backed down from demanding legal guarantees already now. However, Klaus is asking for a declaration that such guarantees will be included in the future – probably in connection with the accession treaty of Croatia.
This will be difficult for other governments to accept. Many would prefer a simple and strong message to Klaus: `F*ck off´. That is not how the EU works, however. There has been so many cases before when people making a lot of noise get a fig leaf to cover their retreat in the end. The most likely solution seems to be a declaration stating that the Charter of Fundamental Rights applies to EU institutions only, and not to issues within the competence of the Member States. Without any specific mentioning of issues related to the Second World War.
Will that be enough for Vaclav Klaus? Only the Czech President himself knows. But it is also an issue about what Member States such as Austria, Hungary and Slovakia can accept, and about the responsibility for EU leaders not to reignite old sensitive controversies. Vaclav Klaus should follow the advice John Cleese is giving to himself in Faulty Towers: `Don´t mention the war´.
Vaclav Klaus is a difficult obstacle, but there is also a positive scenario for the European Council.
If the Czech constitutional court already 27 October decides against the complaints about the Lisbon Treaty, and Klaus backs off, it might even be possible to keep to the original plan and fill the new posts at the Summit. This is very optimistic, but should not be ruled out entirely. Otherwise, the positions might be filled at an extra Summit in November, as foreseen by the Financial Times. Why not bet a euro on Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende as President of the European Council?
Climate is another nightmare for Fredrik Reinfeldt. It seems extremely complicated to reach a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen. On Tuesday, EU finance ministers will try to agree on financing, with environment ministers meeting the following day to negotiate the full EU position for Copenhagen.
Although there was progress in COREPER last Friday, sensitive issues remain, including the burden sharing of additional financing and the future of the Clean Development Mechanism. Environment ministers will also have difficulties agreeing on how to handle the `hot air´ in the Kyoto protocol, the emission allowances not used by the participating countries.
On another issue, Reinfeldt can be more optimistic. The Swedish Presidency has been very active on the principles for the External Action Service, which will be established by the Lisbon Treaty. Although there has been differing views on inter alia the competence of the EU Commission, a compromise solution now seems close.
According to a text to be discussed by COREPER tomorrow, the controversial issue about development assistance would be solved by emphasizing the High Representative´s role as Vice-President of the EU Commission. Strategies and similar decisions of principle would be submitted to the College by the Commissioner for Development Aid, in agreement with the Vice-President, but detailed programming would be the sole responsibility of the Commissioner for Development Aid. Should this compromise satisfy Member States, the Swedish Presidency will have at least one positive result to show at the European Council.
If Reinfeldt also can overcome the resistance of Vaclav Klaus, he will be able to claim success at the Summit. But climate negotiations remain a dark cloud over the Swedish Presidency.