Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek announced at a press conference on Wednesday what they intend to focus on during Chechia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, which begins next month. Their priorities will be coping with the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction, energy security, the strengthening of defense capabilities, and cybersecurity.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine significantly influenced the priorities of the Czech presidency. After taking office last December, Bek spoke about dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, climate change policies, and addressing migration and security.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken many of our certainties. It has exposed the weaknesses of the security architecture in Europe, which we will have to grasp and, above all, actively develop, not just as observers relying on others,” Fiala said.
According to the prime minister, all pillars include the long-term strategic interests and priorities of the Czech Republic and the values that the Czech Republic has long held and is proud of.
“Together with our European partners, we will be at the forefront of the European Union within six months, working to be stronger together and to be able to use our strength to the benefit of those who need it,” Fiala said.
“Our unique historical experience with Russian occupation has taught us that we can face difficult moments, help each other, and stand up for what is right. After three years of preparations, we will undertake this task confidently and with an awareness of our responsibility for the results.”
According to the Czech government, the role of the Czech presidency will be different from that during its first tenure in 2009 before the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, but still important. The task of the ministers will mainly be to negotiate opinions on legislation at the meetings of the ministerial councils.
In connection with Ukraine, Czechia will moderate the debate on greater flexibility in the use of money from the European budget, Bek said. According to Fiala, flexibility is currently increasing for programs already approved, but it is necessary to have a debate on additional money and new tools for managing the refugee wave in the most affected countries.
According to Bek, the Czech Republic will also deal with the European Commission’s proposal concerning media pluralism during its presidency, in addition to moderating the debate on the rule of law.
“We will also raise other issues in the field of the rule of law, such as the persecution of war crimes and the positive exchange of experiences in enforcing sanction mechanisms between European states,” the minister said.
The focus will be on the REPowerEU package, which paves the way for joint gas purchases and the completion of the energy system. Czechia will additionally oversee the implementation of the new defense plan.
According to Bek, the Czech Republic is sending a signal that it has long been an advocate of open trade relations with third countries that have similar values to Czechia. The search for alternative sources of raw materials for European industry is also a priority.
“We must offset the loss of opportunities in Russia by opening up new opportunities in other parts of the world,” Bek said.
Motto by Václav Havel
The motto of the Czech presidency of the European Council in the second half of this year is “Evropa jako úkol,” which reads in English, “Europe as a task: rethink, rebuild, repower.” The inspiration comes from a speech by former President Václav Havel, in Aachen in 1996, in which he reflected on the role of Europe in a changing world.
Such considerations are still relevant today. Even though there is not much time to think, it is necessary to act very quickly, said Bek during the presentation of the presidency’s priorities.
The Dark Side studio prepared the logo for Czechia’s presidency. It consists of 27 compass needles displayed in the national colors of the individual member states of the European Union.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala described the motto as apt, and according to him, Czechia is committed to the European task.
“A common Europe, its building, its creation, its good form, which serves the development of individual national societies, is our common task,” he stated.
In Fiala’s view, the Russian aggression in Ukraine has shown that security, freedom, and democracy are fragile values that must be defended against aggressors.
“Democracy is a daily task, the fight for freedom is a daily task,” he added.