Czech Presidency in the Council: delivering the EU’s common priorities

Three main topics are in the Czech’s Presidency complex motto: “Europe as a task: Rethink, Rebuild, Repower”. To implement the motto’s idea, the Czech Republic has five main priorities during the Council Presidency: ramification of Russia-Ukraine war, energy security, strengthening defense/cybersecurity, resilience of the European economy and democratic values. The overall Presidency’s idea, however, is to get rid of the EU dependency on fossil fuels. 

Rotating presidency in the EU Council of Ministers is a wonderful institution to govern European integration due to the following main factors: the EU member states acquire opportunity of presiding over one of the most important legal branches and gain experience in the EU-wide governance system; the “presidency’s state” can learn “the tricks” of connecting national and common European interests in “the EU corridors of power”.

The Czech Presidency of the European Council of Ministers in the second part of 2022 has made already a solid preparation and presentations in numerous member states; the Presidency’s representatives have been active in the EU capitals. Thus, the following state and government authorities took part: e.g. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan and Justice Minister Pavel Blažek.
Besides, the following officials would be in reality “pulling the strings” during the Presidency: popular politician Mikuláš Bek, Minister for European affairs, Tomáš Pojar, and Petr Fiala, the country’s Prime Minister, etc.
The EU Council Presidency works in teams by three rotating member states: this time the “trio” is composed of France, Czech Republic and Sweden (in the first half of 2023); thus, during the Czech presidency in the Council there will be an opportunity to work together along a long-term program. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/da/statement_22_4346

About Czechia…
Czechia is a parliamentary republic with a head of government – the prime minister – and a head of state – the president. The country was formed in 1993, after Czechoslovakia was split into Czechia and Slovakia. The country is now divided into 14 regions, including the capital, Prague. The Czech Republic (also known as Czechia) with an area of 78,871 square kilometers and 10,5 mln citizens is a landlocked country in Central Europe; it is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to the southeast.
The Duchy of Bohemia was founded in the late 9th century under Great Moravia; it was formally recognized as an “imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire” in 1002 and became a kingdom in 1198. Historically known as Bohemia, i.e. the Crown/Kingdom of Bohemia (1198) was gradually integrated into the Habsburg monarchy after 1526.
With the states’ motto – the “truth prevails” – the Czech Republic is a member of NATO, the European Union (since May 2004), OECD (1995), OSCE, and the Council of Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_Republic
The most important sectors of the Czechia’s economy (in 2020) were industry (28.1%), wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (17.5%) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (16.8%).
Intra-EU trade accounts for 80% of the Czechia’s exports: most vital export’s destinations are: Germany 33%, Slovakia 8% and Poland 6%; while in the outside the EU trade about 2% goes to the United States.
In terms of imports, 73% come from the EU member states: i.e. from Germany 28%, Poland 9% and the Netherlands 7%; while outside the EU 11% come from China and 2% from the United States and Russia. The EU nominated to the European Commission Vĕra Jourová as a vice-president for “values, transparency and the rule of law”. Source:
https://european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/country-profiles/czechia_en

Delivering on motto’s points in Czech Presidency
Rethink. Many topics are included into this direction, including the results of the Conference on the Future of Europe and other topics in the Czech program. Will Czechia turn the European Green Deal into the transformative agenda it needs to be, asks officials in the European Environmental Bureau?
Rebuild. The topic is dominated by the reconstruction of Ukraine, and also by the EU’s “domestic issues”, such as a Recovery Plan and the NextGenerationEU program for the recovery of the member states’ economies. Important is, that the EU has disbursed already €100 billion, another € 700 billion of investment under NextGenerationEU are ready to be deployed; so Czech government will work intensively on that during the Presidency. The digital aspects in “rebuild” are vital too: the Commission wants to conclude negotiations during the Czech Presidency, for example on the European electronic identity, on AI, on the European Chips Act, and possibly on the Data Act.
Repower. The topic’s agenda goes well with the Union’s package REPowerEU with, basically three pillars in the package: a) diversification and reliability of external fossil fuels supplies, b) energy efficiency, and c) massive investment in renewable energy. Along with the Union’s REPowerEU package comes € 300 billion to be invested in the European Green Deal and in the renewable energy. Therefore the Commission strongly counts during Czech’s Presidency on a rapid adoption of REPowerEU program.
More on the green deal, the “fit-for-55” plan and “green transition” in: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/green-deal/fit-for-55-the-eu-plan-for-a-green-transition/

Common European priorities
In the current term, according to European Environmental Bureau, EEB the Czech government must address the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises, using full potential to transform the EU’s environmental policy. For example, the main bottlenecks of the energy transition lie in the lack of grid connections, skilled professionals and financial resources, especially on the EU’s eastern side.
https://meta.eeb.org/2022/07/14/eu-presidencies-how-green-was-france-how-promising-czechia/

The European Commission published at the end of March 2022, a set of initiatives to speed up the transition towards circular economy in the states: they include e.g. Sustainable Products Initiative to boost the circularity of all products on the EU market, a reform of Ecodesign laws and an Ecodesign Work Plan for 2022-2024, a Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, a proposal for the revision of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), and new rules to reinforce the power of consumers within the green transition. This package, said the Director of Policy Integration and Circular Economy at the EEB, could help drive the much-needed market and industry transformations to achieve a resource–efficient, sustainable and fair economy.
https://meta.eeb.org/2022/04/06/eu-circular-economy-at-a-turning-point-ahead/

Democracy and the rule of law in focus
Czechia will be an honest broker, but this is also a country with a strong human rights legacy of Václav Havel, an experience with a totalitarian regime and state-controlled propaganda,” noticed V. Jourová and added: “this experience is needed these days more than ever.”
The real test of the country’s commitment to strengthening democratic institutions will be how it deals with problem cases inside of the EU itself, such as Poland’s judicial reforms and Hungarian and Greek restrictions on press freedoms.
Commissioner V. Jourová has played already a key role on resolving the burning issues concerning the Polish rule of law.

Visegrad’s legacy
The Czech Presidency makes another important sign in European sub-regional cooperation; its neighbor, Slovakia takes over the presidency of the Visegrad group, the central and east European alliance comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
The group has been in disarray since the latest Russian-Ukrainian military conflict invasion: e.g. Hungary has emerged as the Russia’s closest ally in the EU, while the other three countries have taken a very robust stance against Russia.

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