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Latest update : 2009-02-17

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has criticised France's handling of the economic crisis for the second time this month, albeit implicitly, by denouncing those "who are adding fuel to the fire in the form of protectionism."

AFP - Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency, on Tuesday denounced protectionism and nationalism in Europe, in a fresh implicit attack on France.

"Europe is facing protectionism, populism, a lack of solidarity, fingerpointing, punishing the innocent and rewarding the unnecessary," said Topolanek in Brussels, less than two weeks before he presides over a special EU summit on the recession now gripping Europe .

Topolanek, speaking at a debate on the crisis, was careful not mention France by name -- but the main target of his comments was clear.

In recent weeks the Czech Republic and France, which held the EU presidency until December, have traded barbs, openly or implicitly, over their handling of the economic crisis which has hurled Europe into recession.

Prague was particularly peeved by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's suggestion earlier this month that French automakers should close down factories abroad, notably in the Czech Republic, and provide more jobs at home.

"Are we really all in the same boat or do we have different decks?" asked Topolanek rhetorically, summing up the feeling of some in the newer eastern European member states that they are not viewed as equals by their richer western partners.

"Do we have a first class deck, a second class deck and a third class deck? There are those who say we're on the Titanic," he said.

"There are those who are adding fuel to the fire in the form of protectionism, there are those who are dancing a climate dance while the ship is sinking," he added, taking a swipe at EU efforts to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Date created : 2009-02-17