Czech Republic takes over EU chair amid crisis

January 1st, 2009 - 7:48 am ICT by IANS  

Prague, Jan 1 (DPA) The Czech Republic assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) Thursday, nearly two decades after communism collapsed in the central European country of 10 million.The country takes over at the EU’s helm at a time when the continent is experiencing an economic crisis, as Israel fires rockets on the Gaza Strip and as Russia and Ukraine engage in a gas row.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, a close US ally, is to hold the post of EU’s president-in-office until July, while President Vaclav Klaus, an outspoken EU critic and global warming doubter, is to have a limited, ceremonial role.

Prague takes over from France, an active, strong leader, and before Sweden, which will take over July 1.

In an acknowledgment of the country’s size, the Czechs said that they aim to seek common ground rather than to make bold solo steps.

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