Guide to the Czech Presidency
By Domenico Sorrentino, Research Assistant, Public Policy Brussels
The Czech Republic is getting ready to take over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union from France on the first of July. We can already call it the crisis presidency: the Czech government needs to carry the EU through an energy crisis, inflation and Russia’s war against Ukraine. Instinctif Partners has developed a guide for the EU2022.CZ, you can see it here.
During the presentation of the Czech priorities on 15 June, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS, ECR) said: “What we must do to end the war is clear. Put pressure on Russia, maintain European unity, continue to support Ukraine and try to ensure that Vladimir Putin’s aggressive plans do not succeed.” The Czechs will need to forge common positions on financial and political support for Ukraine, and most of all on how to reduce EU dependence on Russian energy and greenhouse gas emissions in the middle of this crisis.
The Czechs’ priorities for their presidency are refreshingly realistic: many countries about to take their turn at the presidency with the completion of big legislative initiatives or contributing to grand plans for “more Europe.” Prague’s job has to be seen largely as crisis management. The Czech Minister for European Affairs, Mikuláš Bek, said the leitmotif of this presidency is “the war in Ukraine and its impact on Europe.” Going through the priorities, including defence, values and democracy, the Minister added that the war “connects all the important issues we have to deal with today.”
Prague wants to be substantial and pragmatic during its presidency when it comes to legislative files. Managing the fallout of Russia’s invasion might mean some other policy objectives will fall by the wayside. The Czech government wants to ensure that support for Ukraine is sustainable while at the same time keeping our economies and energies going. It is clear that the Czechs will focus more on the energy supply crisis rather than decarbonising the economy even though the two go hand in hand.
The motto of the Czech Presidency “Europe as a task: rethink, rebuild, repower” is a public declaration of the legacy of the first Czech President Václav Havel. The five key priority areas are:
1. Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery
Following Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the Czech Presidency will support the EU’s actions by using all instruments and programmes offered by the EU. Another important task will be the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, focusing on restoring critical infrastructure, ensuring basic services, strengthening resilience and economic recovery and stability in Ukraine.
2. Energy security
The Czech Presidency will put emphasis on the accelerated implementation of REPowerEU, an important part of which is diversification of sources including energy savings and acceleration of the transition to low-emission and renewable energy sources. The Czechs will have to make sure the EU has enough natural gas stored up to weather any interruption of supply from Russia ahead of winter.
3. Strengthening Europe’s defence capabilities and cyberspace security
Considering the growing global instability and uncertainty, the Czech Presidency will focus on reinforcing security and defence capabilities, in particular in partnership with NATO. It will work especially on supporting the implementation of key topics within the Strategic Compass. Strengthening related industrial capacities in the EU is also key. At the same time, the Czech Presidency will address cyber threats and the geopolitical context of new technologies, including space.
4. Strategic resilience of the European economy
From food and medicines to semiconductor chips, supply chain resilience needs to be strengthened. The availability of strategic raw materials and components must be secured for European firms. Particular emphasis will be placed on the security of IT supply chains. Accelerating the digitalisation and automation of the European industry is also essential, increasing Europe’s competitiveness, with a particular accent on strategic sectors. Prague will also have to reconcile diverging positions among Member States about how to regulate Artificial Intelligence.
5. Resilience of democratic institutions
The Conference on the Future of Europe created a unique space for citizens and especially for young people to provide input for future EU policies. The Czech Presidency will work on making use of these ideas. Moreover, the Czech government will focus on respecting and strengthening freedoms and European values in both offline and online environments.
Prime Minister Fiala has always had a very realistic attitude towards the EU, but in his party there are still a lot of influential people who are very Euroskeptic. Now the question is: how will the President’s pragmatism translate in the light of the ambitious targets set by the Union? We will see in the coming months.
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