Czechs want to hold first meeting of Obama with EU leaders in Prague

The Czech Republic wants to organise the first meeting between EU leaders and new U.S. President Barack Obama during the Czech EU Presidency in the first half of 2009, Czech Vice Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra told CTK today.


The exact date of the meeting is being negotiated, but it might be held in the spring around the NATO summit, or even earlier.The plans of Czech diplomacy were mentioned by Czech President Vaclav Klaus, in his telegram congratulating Obama on his victory, and PM Mirek Topolanek, in an interview for Radio Cesko earlier today.


Klaus said he would like to welcome Obama at Prague Castle. Topolanek told CTK that French President Nicolas Sarkozy supported the idea of an informal summit with Obama. "It is certain that Obama will be in Evrope. It is yet to be decided whether an informal summit with the EU 27 countries will take place in Prague," said Topolanek. Topolanek said the Czech government will discuss the proposal with representatives of the EU 27. The European Commission might give its consent.


Annual summits are part of EU-U.S. relations. They usually take place in the first half of year. Any questions concerning the date and topics  should be addressed to the Czech EU Presidency, whose business it is, not the EC's, EC spokeswoman Christiane Hohmann told CTK.


Marine de Carne, spokeswoman for the current French EU Presidency, told CTK that no negotiations about the next EU-U.S. summit have been held so far. The summit's initiation is up to the Czech Presidency, which will have to send an official invitation to the USA and reach agreement with the new U.S. administration, de Carne said.


A high diplomat, who requested anonymity, told CTK today that Czech diplomacy would like to hold the EU-Obama summit in Prague if there were no earlier occasion in the EU.


Last time a similar meeting between the EU and George Bush, the EU-USA summit, was held in Brussels in February 2005, about one month after Bush assumed office for the second time. The 60th NATO summit will be jointly hosted by Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, in April 2009. Obama will assume the presidential office in January.