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    Czech Republic Assumes EU Presidency

    Czech President Vaclav Klaus said his country's tenure in the rotating European Union presidency will provide it with an opportunity to influence the bloc's policy.

    The Czech president, a leading Euro-skeptic, said his country will seek to help the union become a truly democratic space in which decision-making is brought as close to the citizen as possible.

    In his New Year's address, Mr. Klaus said that concerns about limitations on the democratic rights of citizens are the basis for his doubts about the currently-stalled EU treaty.  The Czech leader also urged citizens to actively participate in June's European Parliament elections

    The Czech Republic took over the rotating presidency from France as the New Year began.  But Mr. Klaus, who has repeatedly criticized EU policy, said he will refuse to fly the EU flag over Prague Castle.

    Analysts are predicting a tough six months for the Czechs. They will deal with a global economic crisis, a stalled EU treaty, and tensions with Russia over energy supplies.

    The first EU meetings under the Czech presidency are scheduled for next week, when EU foreign ministers are expected to focus on energy policy.  

     

    Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters. 

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