by RAY FLEMING
AFTER the fireworks of France's six months tenure of the European Union presidency it was widely assumed that the Czech Republic's turn in the job would be nice and quiet. No chance. As the country's foreign minister said yesterday the combination of Gaza and Gazprom made for an explosive start. He might have added that the government itself has also ensured an early controversy among all member states by commissioning an exhibition in which artists have been invited to contribute paintings and designs that symbolise their own countries. It is normal for the country holding the presidency to arrange for some kind of display in Brussels but these are usually models of conventionality. The Czechs have taken the risk of upsetting all the other 26 countries on whose cooperation they will have to rely for the next six months. What will Spain think of a picture showing the country covered in concrete, or France of a sign reading “On Strike”, or Sweden symbolised by an Ikea flatpack carton or Poland represented by two Catholic priests raising a replica of the US flag on Iwo Jima in 1945? As for the Czech Republic itself the artist responsible has devised an electronic LED display featuring quotes from the country's Euro sceptic president Vaclav Klaus.

And Britain? Where there should be a display of some kind there is just an empty space - a statement of Britain's lack of commitment to Europe, according to the artist concerned, Khalid Asadi.

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