Prague apologises over controversial Sarkozy transcript

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The transcript published in a weekly said Sarkozy had offered the Czech PM leadership in eastern Europe in exchange for the helm of the new Mediterranean Union.

28 November 2008

PRAGUE – The Czech foreign minister Thursday apologised for a controversial transcript published in a local weekly which claimed it was a conversation between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Czech premier.

The Reflex weekly on Thursday published excerpts of what it said was a transcript of Sarkozy's meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in France on 31 October, based on a document drawn up by the Czech embassy in Paris.

The document quotes Sarkozy as offering Topolanek leadership in eastern Europe within the planned European partnership in exchange for the helm of the new Mediterranean Union during Prague's EU presidency starting on 1 January.

"Obviously, someone at our office made a mistake. We are investigating the whole affair," Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in a statement.

"I take responsibility and we very much apologise to the French side for this embarrassing and unacceptable event and for the fact that such a misleading text has surfaced," he added.

Pavel Fischer, the Czech ambassador to France, threw doubt on the authenticity of the text published by Reflex.

"I don't want to believe someone would want to ascribe this to the president of the French Republic or the Czech prime minister and to present it as the transcript of some talks."

"I was present during all talks with the French president and I do not recognise the text. I must categorically deny speculations about the authenticity of the text," he added.

Alexandr Vondra, Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs who was present at the meeting, said the text was "a theatre play or ... a script that did not take place the way it has been published."

The meeting between Sarkozy and Topolanek was meant to dispel concerns that France, a country presiding over the EU now, may want to undermine Prague's upcoming EU presidency.

Sarkozy's activism on the finance crisis, and suggestions he wanted to take the helm of the eurogroup in 2009, had fuelled speculation he would try and cling on to the EU reins after the end of the year.

[AFP / Expatica]

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