The international service of Czech Radio 
29-8-2016, 14:35 UTC
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Czech membership in the European Union
Five years ago, on May 1, 2004, the Czech Republic, along with nine other countries joined the EU, fulfilling one of the country’s main foreign policy goals and marking a symbolic return to the European fold.
Accession talks started back in 1998 and the process of preparing for membership involved an overhaul of the country’s legislation and the gradual adoption of EU norms in all spheres of life. In a referendum held on June 13 -14, 2003 an overwhelming 77 percent of Czechs voted in favour of their country joining the EU.
December 21, 2007 brought another important milestone – the Czech Republic and eight other EU members joined the Schengen border free-zone. The lifting of border controls created a vast border-free zone for 400 million Europeans in 24 countries and was hailed as an important step to a one-tier Europe. Czechs could finally enjoy the long-sought privilege of free movement within the EU.
On January 1st of 2009 the Czech Republic took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, the second newcomer state after Slovenia to do so.
For more information on Czech membership in the EU go to: www.euroskop.cz


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The EU in numbers
27 member states
Population: 496 million - c. 7.5% of the world population
Area: 4.314 million km2





The Czech EU presidency
(January 1 – June 30)
Motto: „Europe without Barriers“
The Czech Republic took over the rotating EU presidency from France on January 1st for a six month term that will involve dealing with pressing issues such as the global economic crisis and renewed conflict in the Middle East.
For a relatively new member of the 27-member bloc, bearing responsibility for the functioning of the Council of Europe presents a big challenge. It entails organizing and chairing around three hundred events on various levels. The presiding country also represents the Council of Europe at sessions of the European Parliament, the European Commission and various institutions outside the European Union.
Important decisions lie ahead as regards the functioning of the 27-member block: elections will take place in June to the European Parliament, while the mandate of the European Commission is due to expire. On top of all this, the fate of the Lisbon treaty hangs in the balance.
The Czech motto for the EU presidency is “Europe without Barriers” and the country has outlined a number of priorities: supporting competitiveness and a liberal trade policy, opening a European debate on nuclear safety, accentuating particular foreign policy and security issues such as the development of transatlantic relations, the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, and helping to mediate a consensus on the future EU budget.
Radio Prague will of course be covering various aspects of the historic first Czech EU presidency.
Links
Official website on the Czech EU presidency: www.eu2009.cz
Information portal of the Czech government on the EU presidency: www.euroskop.cz
www.vlada.cz/cs/eu/
Institute for European Policy: www.europeum.org
Institute for International Relations: www.iir.cz
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