30,000 guests, 3,000 meetings, 1,500 lapel pins - Czechs prepare for presidency

Unless you’ve been living on the Moon for the last months you’ll know that in a few days the Czech Republic will take over the presidency of the European Union. We’ve heard a lot recently about priorities and agendas, Eurosceptic presidents and divided parliaments, but what about the practical side of it all? What will actually happen here when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve?

Photo: European CommissionPhoto: European Commission The newspaper Lidové Noviny published some interesting facts and figures on Tuesday. Over the next six months, 1,500 Czech bureaucrats will attend 3,000 meetings - an average of 25 a day – and they’ll have to do 200,000 hours of overtime to prepare for them.

Some 30,000 foreign diplomats, politicians and officials will visit the Czech Republic in that time, and the VIPs among them will be taken care of by 70 officers and 30 hostesses. The VIPs will be given one of 500 pairs of bejewelled cufflinks, or 220 brooches for the ladies. For those below VIP level, the government has ordered 31,500 Czech presidency ties, 13,500 scarves and 1,500 lapel pins. France lit up the Eiffel Tower in the EU’s blue and yellow colours for their presidency, and for many weeks the media has been trying to ascertain what big event the Czechs are planning for January 1st. For a while it looked like nothing – the idea of holding a lavish fireworks display in Prague to mark the handover from France to the Czech Republic was dropped, after the French – according to Prague City Hall – said they didn’t want to pay for it. There will be fireworks in Prague, but they will have nothing to do with the EU.

Radio Prague has just learnt, however, that at midnight on December 31st, the metronome that stands on the site of the former Stalin statue at Letna will be lit up in the EU’s colours, and will tick for six months.

Then on January 7th, the National Theatre will host a gala evening with music, theatre and dance by the Forman brothers, the sons of Milos Forman. That will be attended by politicians and diplomats and also former president Vaclav Havel, although it’s not clear whether the current president Vaclav Klaus – known for his critical views on European integration - will attend. He’s been invited, but his spokesman couldn’t confirm whether he’ll actually make it.