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A few words of farewell

(This article expired 22.01.2013.)

Op-ed article by the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the EU, Ambassador Milena Vicenová.

EU Ambassadors may be officially called “Permanent Representatives”, but they, too, have to say goodbye at some point. I still have vivid memories of my arrival to Brussels in January 2008, of my first speech at the Ambassadors’ committee called Coreper, and suddenly, I am now its longest-serving member. I, too, attended my last meeting and last negotiations with colleagues from the other Member States with whom I had gone through as many as three hundred full-day meetings, through some exceptionally charged moments of advancing the priorities of “our” countries, but also through moments of understanding and a prevalent atmosphere of good will when searching for a solution useful for the whole of the European Union.

Saying farewell is usually an opportunity to look back on the times that we spent around the negotiating table. Together, we shared preparations for the Lisbon Treaty, 13 June 2008 and the Irish NO, the repeated referendum on 2 October 2009, the final ratification in the Czech Republic and the nomination of new – permanent – EU representatives, Catherine Ashton and Herman van Rompuy.

Over several months, we discussed the shape and form of the new diplomatic service, that is to say the European External Action Service, and the division of labour between permanent chairpersons and Member States. Together with colleagues, we experienced the struggle for competencies between the Council of the EU, the Commission and the Parliament, and the arduous emergence of balance between the three institutions.

I followed closely the work of my colleagues from Slovenia and France who took their turns behind the chairperson’s table. And for the following six months, it was the Czech Republic who had a unique chance to steer the European Union, as the last country fully and completely in the role of the rotating presidency. Since the first day of the Presidency, we had to deal with the gas crisis, followed by a crisis in Gaza, crisis on the financial markets, the fall of the Government... I am proud of the work of the team at the Permanent Representation, thanks to which we managed this difficult situation well and handed over the relay baton to Sweden.

The following Presidencies – of Spain, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and Cyprus – have all been marked by an exceptionally serious economic and political crisis. During my mandate, the heads of state and government met as many as thirty-three times. There were as many informal and extraordinary summits as formal ones. Some meetings finished in the early morning, followed by expectations of the financial markets’ reaction.

The number of Ambassadors around the negotiating table has, over this period, increased to 28 as Croatia has taken the role of an observer in preparation for its EU accession on 1 July 2013.

My colleagues in the Coreper will now deal with the preparations of the EU budget for the next seven years, until 2020. They will face a series of talks about the new shape of the European Union and further battle with a serious economic crisis. For the Czech Republic, my post will be taken up from September 2012 by Martin Povejšil, an experienced diplomat. I would like to wish him and the whole team at the Permanent Representation a lot of good results for the Czech Republic as well as for the European Union.


Milena Vicenová

Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the EU

Brussels, 31 July 2012

Photo: Diana Černáková