By Ray Fleming
ON Thursday, January 1, the Czech Republic took over the Presidency of the European Union from France. One of its first acts was to arrange for an EU delegation led by its foreign minister to visit the Middle East to discuss the prospects for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza; the group will go to Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank early next week. There is a danger, however, that in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine it will bump into another delegation led by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy whose term as EU president ended on 31 December. In principle, of course, any national leader can undertake any mission he wishes but M.Sarkozy had earlier made it clear that he doubts the capacity of the Czech Republic to act as influentially as he believes he is able to. In this way he not only makes the EU look silly, he also risks confusing lines of communication in a delicate situation where it is essential that they should be absolutely clear. This is not the only instance of Sarkozy's conviction that he should continue as a kind of quasi-president of Europe after the conclusion of his unquestionably successful six months in the job
Later next week, for instance, he is staging a two-day conference in Paris devoted to “A new world, new capitalism” which is to be chaired by none other than Tony Blair. What a double act!

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