Mon, 15 Aug 2022

The Czech EU Presidency: Rethink, Rebuild, Repower
01 Jul 2022, 16:11 GMT+10

Under the motto of former President Vaclav Havel "Europe as a task", from July 1, 2022 the Czech Republic takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union.

"Prague perceives this not only as an opportunity for joint reflection but above all as a call for responsibility and decisive action based on the values that our conscience requires us to follow. If we want to live up to the expectations of this historic moment, our triple challenge is: to rethink, rebuild and recharge Europe", reads the publication on the official website of the presidency.

Europe as a Task: Rethink, Rebuild, Recharge

When in 1996 Czech President Vaclav Havel considered the future of our continent in his speech at the Charlemagne Award ceremony entitled "Europe as a Task", he emphasized that the tasks facing Europe deserve careful and thorough consideration. In the international context at the time, particularly favorable to Western democracies, Havel called on Europeans to rediscover their conscience and take responsibility for global environmental, social and economic challenges. He did not want Europe to regain its position as a "global conductor" and impose its cultural values on the rest of the world. What he meant was more to inspire and lead by example.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine overturned the geopolitical situation on the European continent and at the same time showed that Europeans in a crisis caused by an external threat are capable of acting very quickly, effectively and united. Yet European unity is not a unity of authoritarian unanimity, but a unity in the diversity of a multi-voiced debate, which is nevertheless guided by our common values towards consensus.

The priorities of the Czech Republic's upcoming six-month presidency will differ from those of its French predecessor, focusing on

five closely related areas:

Managing the refugee crisis and post-war reconstruction of Ukraine Energy security Strengthening Europe's defense capabilities and cyber security Durability of democratic institutions.

Managing the refugee crisis and post-war reconstruction of Ukraine

Following Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, the Czech Presidency will support the EU's efforts to protect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, using all the tools and programs offered by the EU, including strengthening sanctions. The political and military support of the EU and its member states for Ukraine is in our vital interest to ensure security in Europe.

Russian aggression triggered the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The EU must take all steps to help best deal with the unprecedented wave of refugees, in particular women and children from war-torn Ukraine. This will require the mobilization of all available resources and expertise and their coordinated use.

In cooperation with the EC, the Czech Presidency will work for a flexible transfer of funds and to create the necessary structures to support the most affected Member States, organizations and the civil sector. The priority will be the protection of children and ensuring their access to education. An important priority will also be coordination in the provision of health care, as well as the successful long-term integration of refugees into the societies of the member states.

Another important task of the Czech Presidency will be the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, with an emphasis on rebuilding critical infrastructure.

Energy security

The Czech Presidency has declared that it will focus mainly on the thorough implementation of the main short-term objective, i.e. eliminating dependence on Russian fossil fuels. It will also deal with energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. At the same time, the development of energy infrastructure is crucial as it will strengthen the energy sustainability of the EU as a whole. The Czech Presidency also declared its readiness to work on the implementation of the regulations on gas reserves, i.e. the filling of storages on the eve of winter, and to encourage joint purchases of the raw material.

It will also address the role of nuclear energy in ensuring the EU's energy security and achieving the EU's climate goals.

In the field of transport, the Presidency will focus on reducing emissions, promoting environmentally friendly modes of transport and infrastructure for alternative fuels as a key prerequisite for the development of clean mobility. At the same time, it will focus on the development of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) to facilitate transport flows between Member States, while supporting the decarbonization of transport.

At the same time, the Czech Presidency will work to implement an appropriate combination of instruments that will reduce the negative social and economic impact of high energy prices. The transition to carbon neutrality must be accompanied by efficient social measures, for example by supporting energy savings in households. Energy conservation is becoming increasingly important in view of inflationary pressures and rising energy prices.

Strengthening Europe's defense capabilities and cyber security

The Czech Republic will focus on strengthening security and defense capabilities, in particular in partnership with NATO, "long-term cooperation in the field of strategic military systems" and "fighting disinformation and security in cyberspace." The Presidency will work specifically to support the implementation of key themes within the Strategic Compass.

It will also look at cyber threats and the geopolitical context of new technologies (and space). It will also focus on the rapid development of the so-called hybrid toolkit, countering disinformation and cyber security. The Czech Presidency will pay particular attention to the cybersecurity of EU institutions, bodies and agencies and the EU's secure space communication system. We will emphasize that the EU, together with its democratic partners, is actively shaping the international debate in international organizations to improve the security and stability of cyberspace.

Strategic sustainability of the European economy

The COVID-19 pandemic and Russian aggression against Ukraine have led to an inflationary shock, heightened market uncertainty and exposed the fragility of global supply chains. The Russian invasion caused the biggest disruption to commodity markets in half a century. The EU must drastically reduce its dependence on hostile or unstable regimes. In order to strengthen strategic sustainability, targeted support for technological competitiveness based on own production capacities is essential, along with deepening free trade with the world's democracies.

Supply chains and their vulnerabilities - from food, medicine to semiconductor chips - need to be understood in detail and their resilience strengthened accordingly. The availability of strategic raw materials and components must be guaranteed for European enterprises. Particular attention will be paid to the security of information technology supply chains. The Czech Presidency will work to speed up the process of concluding trade agreements with democracies and to deepen transatlantic cooperation within the framework of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) with an emphasis on strategic cooperation, including joint measures for the sustainability of supply chains.

Durability of democratic institutions

The Czech Presidency will focus on strengthening the resilience of institutions that have a major impact on maintaining and developing the values of democracy and the rule of law in the EU. Among them are, for example, the transparent financing of political parties, the independence of mass media and the open dialogue with citizens.

The Conference on the Future of Europe created a unique space for citizens and especially young people to discuss the future of Europe and give their input on future EU policies. The Czech Presidency will work to use these ideas and to create a space for the debate to continue. In conducting the European Year of Youth 2022, the Presidency will place emphasis on improving the dialogue with young people and promoting their participation in political/policy processes.

In addition, the Czech Presidency will also focus on respecting and strengthening European freedoms and values both offline and online. Together with other democracies, the Presidency will work to ensure respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in the digital environment and push for global standards to be based on the so-called human-centered approach. In a number of areas related to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the EU has the opportunity to benefit from being the "first player" to be able to set the rules of the global game.

The Czech Presidency wants to contribute to strengthening the transparency of cryptocurrencies and reducing the risk of their abuse.

Although the French presidency has already managed to grant Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidates for membership at the EU summit in June 2022, the issue of EU enlargement and cooperation with the bloc's neighbors will be at the center of attention and the most important informal summit during the Czech Presidency of the Council.

The event will be held in Prague in October 2022 and will be the largest of its kind, as it will involve not only EU member states but also other European countries, "from Iceland to Ukraine, whether they are EU members or not," Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced on his Facebook page.

"It's a challenge for us, but we'll get through it."

During its previous presidency of the Council in 2009, at a similar summit in Prague, the so-called Eastern Partnership between six post-Soviet countries was created - Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the EU.

During the presidency, the army and military police will be activated. According to a spokesman for the General Staff, the army provided the police of the Czech Republic with 120 professional soldiers, including explosives experts and dog handlers, for a period of six months. They will be responsible for security operations at the various planned EU events and help transport delegates to and from Prague Airport, where an operations center has been set up to coordinate the activities of the various participants.

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