Since 1989 Czech politics and policies have been shaped by the metaphor of “thereturn to Europe”. EU membership represented an ultimate goal of this return, representing both its most difficult milestone and its final destination. Since the Czech EU accession in 2004, the EU has presented Czech politics with a variety of challenges connected with membership rights and obligations. Undoubtedly, the upcoming Czech EU presidency presents the most serious challenge among these.
I start by reviewing the intellectual background and the key milestones of the return to Europe. In this connection, I show that the slogan of the return to Europe had hidden major disagreements on the orientation of foreign policy within the political elite. Following this, I argue that since these disagreements came to the surface in the late 1990s, Czech foreign policy and the attitudes towards the EU have been influenced by four political communities – the Internationalists, Atlanticists, Europeanists and Autonomists. Using these categories, I then analyse the foreign policy orientation of the current government, arguing that it is internationalist with an Atlanticist tinge. After this, I examine Czech public opinion on the EU as another important factor. Following this, the priorities of the Czech EU presidency are outlined and discussed. Finally, I look into the international and domestic crises of 2008 whose effects are likely to impact on the Czech EU presidency.