On 1 July, 2022, the Czech Republic took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from France. Every six months the Presidency of the Council changes and is it the turn of a different Member State. The Czech Republic will work under the slogan “Europe as a task: rethink, rebuild, repower”. In this blog Fieke Creijghton and Valérie Mendes de León look ahead to the EU Presidency of the Czech Republic for the next six months, and with which priorities the Czech Republic will take on this task.
In the midst of several crises – the Ukrainian crisis, the climate crisis, the Corona crisis, the energy crisis and rising inflation – POLITICO crowned the Czech Republic as ‘crisis president’. The central European country is expected to focus on mediating these crises. In addition to external challenges, the Czech Republic will also have to prove itself at home. For example, a recent poll by a Czech research firm showed that only 36 percent of its residents is satisfied with the European Union. Among other things, this has caused the Czech Republic to be Eurosceptic in the past. A combination of rising domestic trust and its geographical location between Hungary and Poland makes for an interesting starting position during this presidency.
In addition, the current Czech government consists of a coalition between several European coalitions. With the coalition of conservative liberals (“Together”) and center-left liberal coalition, the Czech coalition parties are represented in no less than three different European political groups of the “Greens,” the “EPP,” and the “ECR”. The internal differences within the Czech coalition couldcause tensions.
Central in the Czech Presidency, led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, is the Russian war in Ukraine. Both the Czech Republic and the EU have indicated that peace in Ukraine is imperative in the coming months. Specifically, the presidency has stipulated five priorities:
- Rebuilding Ukraine and coordinating the refugee crisis caused by the Russian invasion;
- Energy security;
- Strengthening European defense capabilities and cyber security;
- Strategic resilience the European economy;
- Resilience of democratic institutions.
Regarding the tensions in Warsaw and Budapest, the new Presidency wants to ensure that all Member States are included in a constructive dialogue.
One of the Presidency’s priorities concerns ensuring energy supply and energy transition. The Czech Republic wants to build on the European energy infrastructure and strengthen the resilience of the European energy supply. The Czech Republic aims to do this by increasing the role of nuclear energy. In parallel with implementing this vision, Prague has the difficult role of maintaining short-term energy supplies for the winter of 2023, without becoming dependent on long-term fossil fuel contracts. In order to achieve this, the EU has recently adopted the ‘Gas Storage’ proposal, the REPowerEU plan and the plan to jointly purchase gas. It is expected that the Czech Republic will put pressure on progress in these policy areas.
Within the digital policy domain, two priorities includeincreasing cyber security and making Europe’s economy resilient. The Czech Minister for Digital Affairs, Ivan Rakušan, indicated in an interview with Euractiv that he wants to continue where France ended. Thus, the Czech Republic will take on the implementation of the Digital Markets and Services Acts. Also, the Czech Republic wants to prioritize the AI Act and the creation of the framework for a European Digital Identity. Parallel to the third priority, the goal of reducing technological dependence on countries outside the EU has also been set to counter cyber threats.
In an interview with the Czech magazine Leaders, Czech European Affairs Minister Mikulàš Bek said that in these times of crisis, the priority above all is the daily management of the European Union. The Presidency of Europe as a Task will be mainly about that: accomplishing day-to-day tasks to lead the Union through the crises.
The Czech Republic will hold the Presidency until the end of 2022; in 2023 it will first be Sweden’s turn and then Spain. Do you want to look ahead to the Presidency of these Member States? Or are you curious about how your organization can act upon the Presidents’ priorities? Please do not hesitate to contact us!