Czech president takes aim at 'permanent chairman' Sarkozy
Klaus took a good-humored swipe at Sarkozy, whose style as the hyperactive president of the EU contrasts sharply with that of the Euro-skeptic Czech leader.Paris -- Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose country took over the European Union presidency from France, poked fun on Wednesday at President Nicolas Sarkozy for aspiring to be Europe's "permanent chairperson."
Klaus took a good-humored swipe at Sarkozy, whose style as the hyperactive president of the 27-nation bloc contrasts sharply with that of the Euro-skeptic Czech leader.
"I know he would like to stay permanent chairperson" of the EU, Klaus said at a debate organized in Paris by a foreign policy think tank. "That's very human." But, he added, "I don't think it's necessary to be overactive and to organize a European summit every weekend."
During France's six-month EU presidency, Sarkozy negotiated a ceasefire in the Russia-Georgia conflict, fought to keep the EU's reform treaty alive after Irish voters rejected it and tackled the global financial meltdown.
The French leader has recently irked the Czech Republic by unveiling a multi-billion-euro car industry bailout that puts pressure on French carmakers to shut down factories in central Europe and move them back to France.
After his government accused France of resorting to "protectionism," Klaus sought Wednesday to downplay the dispute and said relations between the two countries remained sound.
"I don't see tension between our two countries,” he said. “Some politicians and some journalists want to create some tensions. It's just a political game.”
The Czech EU presidency has called for a summit at the end of the month "so that heads of state and governments say a clear 'no' to protectionism," Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said Tuesday in Brussels.
The Czech Republic is home to a number of foreign-owned car plants, including one by France's PSA Citroen Peugeot, which announced plans on Wednesday to cut 11,000 jobs worldwide in 2009.
Sarkozy on Monday announced an 8-billion-euro aid package for French carmakers but made the state-backed loans conditional on keeping jobs and factories in France.