In just a few months’ time, the ten countries that joined the European Union in 2004 will celebrate five years as members. The Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU Presidency, is one of those ten new member states (NMS). It released its work plan at the beginning of the year and, in it, announced a celebration to mark the event.
The work plan states the Czech Presidency’s intention to ‘further strengthen the EU prospects’ of the countries in the Western Balkans. It also intends to evaluate the costs and benefits of the 2004 enlargement ‘for all Member States and the Union as a whole’ during a conference in March.
External Relations – Neighbourhood Policies:
The new presidency has also promised to ‘push forward for the introduction of the Eastern Partnership’, a move it sees as deepening the European Neighbourhood Policy. This will be done at a high level forum in May 2009.
All the countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood are named alongside the actions to be taken, and Belarus is given a special mention, with the Presidency seeking to ‘support the gradual development of relations between the EU and Belarus, the commencement of a constructive dialogue with Belarus, and […] support the civil society in Belarus.’
The Mediterranean countries are also mentioned, with special reference to Israel, as its Action Plan expires in April, and the Middle East peace process where ‘the emphasis will be placed on supporting the negotiation process in coordination with the Quartet members, and on compliance with international law and human rights standards.’
Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid:
The Presidency has highlighted financing for development, including the impact of the current financial crisis on developing countries and aid effectiveness as development priorities. There will also be particular emphasis on South-Eastern and Eastern Europe as well as ‘geographical balance within the relations between the EU and other regions.’
Czech Presidency Priorities:
Recent CIDSE article (by Denise Auclair) on EU Presidencies and Development: http://www.cidse.org/Area_of_work/?id=827 (Source: CTA - Brussels Office Newsletter N° 161; http://www.cidse.org/)
Programme of the Czech NGDO platform FoRS for the EU presidency 2009: http://trialog-information-service.blogspot.com/2008/11/programme-of-czech-ngdo-platform-for-eu.html
Information provided by Rebecca Steel, TRIALOG