Current Affairs German chancellor non-confrontational on EU fiscal compact during visit to Czech capital
On a brief working visit to the Czech Republic, German chancellor Angela Merkel met with Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and President Václav Klaus in Prague on Tuesday. Two issues dominated the agenda: a new EU fiscal compact that is being pushed by Germany as well as differing approaches to energy policy in both countries.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Prague is a short one: the German leader is spending a total of five hours in the Czech capital ahead of leaving the city early on Tuesday evening. Her agenda is accordingly packed. The first point on it was a meeting with Prime Minister Petr Nečas to discuss EU issues such as the fiscal compact, which was signed by all member states of the union, with the exception of the Czech Republic and the EU. However, Germany’s chancellor chose not to push the issue and instead made it clear that the decision not to sign the pact had not catapulted the Czech Republic into isolation.
Both Petr Nečas and Angela Merkel stressed that the Czech Republic had made fiscal responsibility a top priority regardless of its refusal to sign the fiscal compact. Mr Nečas pointed out that his country was a “shadow signatory” of the compact, since it was doing everything to ensure it would meet the original Maastricht criteria of a state budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP next year and was planning the introduction of automatic debt limits.
The two leaders also discussed their countries’ differing approaches to energy policy. In Germany, the Green Party managed to garner enough public support to push through its long-standing thrust for a phase out nuclear energy in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster in Fukushima – against the previously rather conservative stand of Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Czech state-owned energy giant ČEZ does not seem ready to budge from its planned multi-billion crown expansion of the Temelín nuclear plant, some 50 kilometers from the German border. On this issue, too, Germany’s leader favored diplomacy over confrontation, stating that while Germany’s stand on nuclear energy would not change, she respected the Czech decision. Merkel and Nečas also spoke on the issue of wind-powered energy plants in Germany that are interfering with the Czech power grid. The Czech prime minister pledged to invest into the Czech power grid system to alleviate the problems, while Chancellor Merkel said Germany was preparing legislative initiatives that would speed up the improvement of their systems to prevent them from causing overloads in the Czech Republic.
The leaders praised the quality and importance of Czech-German relations, and the interdependence of the two countries’ economies. The German chancellor said she was pleased to be visiting Prague 15 years after the signature of the Czech-German Declaration, a milestone in the consolidation of good relations between both countries.