Two years before the start of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council, Czech diplomats in Brussels are working on how to successfully manage its organization with a budget of about one-third lower compared to 2009, when the Czech Republic led the EU Council for the first time.
Czechia will take over the EU Council Presidency in July 2022. Last October, the Czech government approved the budget of the Presidency at 1.24 billion korunas (€46.58 million), as proposed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. However, Social Democrats and some of the opposition politicians deemed this amount rather low.
According to diplomats in Brussels, the Czech budget is, so far, the lowest compared to the budgets of other member states, which presided over the EU Council. Furthermore, they point out that insufficient funding could limit the Czech Republic in enforcing its priorities.
While PM Babiš claims that by reducing the budget, he wants to save money spent on excessive expenses such as unnecessary travel, diplomats in Brussels are concerned that they will lose crucial reinforcements due to savings.
On top of the hundred of the regular staff, the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU aimed to employ another 122 people during the Presidency. Instead, there will be only 58 new full-time employees with students or interns completing the team.
However, diplomats believe that the lack of qualified experts might affect the position of the Czech Republic in negotiating drafts of EU regulations that have to be approved by member countries. Before MEPs approve the proposals, there are usually long discussions in expert groups and ambassadors’ meetings. And in these groups, Czechia might have a lower representation than other EU countries had during their presidencies, so the ability of the Czech Republic to promote its priorities might be weakened.
Although the Czech authorities planned to buy a new building in Brussels, which would become the headquarters during Czechia’s Presidency, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to stop the purchase as the coronavirus crisis forced Czech authorities to reconsider some expenditures.
Instead, the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic is now looking into renting the necessary office space in another building.
Title image: The Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (Julien Warnand, Pool Photo via AP)