By Will Kinsman and Ben Hoffschneider
On July 1, The Czech Republic’s presidency of the Council of the EU began, the second country under the trio presidencies with France, The Czech Republic and Sweden. Before France’s presidency began in January of this year, the trio identified objectives to strengthen the resiliency of the European community. With Europe facing a combined energy, refugee, and humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Czech presidency of the EU comes at a crucial moment. As an EU state on the frontlines of the conflict in Ukraine, the Czech Republic faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Following its EU presidency in 2009, the Czech Republic has the opportunity to demonstrate the leadership role that Central and Eastern European countries can play in defining the EU’s future.
Under the program of the trio of EU presidencies, the Czech Republic will seek to continue the work started by France. This includes strengthening democratic institutions, defining a new model of economic growth for Europe, and increasing the EU’s presence on the international stage. At the same time, the Czech government, has put a premium on the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine.
The Czech Republic has adopted the motto “Europe as a Task,” and has identified 5 priority areas for its term:
- Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery
- Energy security
- Strengthening European defense capabilities and cyberspace security
- Strategic resilience of the European economy
- Resilience of democratic institutions
Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery
As the war in Ukraine continues, the first priority is to assist and coordinate the EU’s continued response to the conflict in Ukraine and develop a roadmap for supporting Ukraine’s post-war recovery. In the short term, the Czech Republic will seek to improve coordination amongst EU member states to strengthen its countermeasures including economic sanctions against Russia. In addition, they will seek to foster systems to manage the long-term resettlement and integration of Ukrainian refugees, as well as creating programs for flexible funds transfers and lending structures to facilitate post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. The country recognizes that inter-EU cooperation is a necessity in order to continue providing Ukraine with the required support and hopes to create a plan of action for cooperation without the EU Council that will last long after their Presidency ends in December.
On the energy front, the Czech Presidency hopes to accelerate the implementation of REPowerEU, the plan the European Commission introduced in May to rapidly transform European energy infrastructure to halt dependence on Russian fossil fuels and develop diverse, renewable energy resources within the EU. This includes present day changes to build gas reserves before winter and supporting voluntary joint purchases of energy, as well as the long-term development of sustainable energy infrastructure and generation methods. The presidency’s sustainability agenda will also include a focus on reducing emissions and developing the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) to de-carbonate and better facilitate transport flows across member states.
Strengthening European defense capabilities and cyberspace security
Cooperation in defense and cybersecurity have been among the top priorities between the EU and the NATO allies. The Czech Republic will focus on increasing European security and defense capabilities, especially in cyberspace, strengthening its partnership with NATO and supporting the implementation of key themes within the NATO strategic compass. The presidency will emphasize cooperation and investments in reducing foreign technological dependence and on securing the resilience of critical value chains needed for these technologies by strengthening industrial capacities throughout the EU.
Strategic resilience of the European economy
In light of the inflationary shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, building economic resilience among the EU is one of the key priorities. This will be done in part by working to drastically reduce supply chain dependence on hostile or unstable regimes, strengthening strategic resilience and targeting support for technological competitiveness while deepening free trade with the world’s democratic states. The presidency will push for further cooperation between the EU and the US through the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (EUUS-TTC) to fortify supply chains, especially for critical minerals and pharmaceuticals. The presidency will also push to accelerate the EU’s green and digital transitions, including by facilitating the implementation of the “Wallet for European Identity,” a pan-European tool for safe and trustworthy proof of a citizen’s identity.
Resilience of democratic institutions
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has reminded Europe of the importance of long-term stability and resilience of its democratic mechanisms. Major resiliency efforts identified by the Czech Presidency include the transparent financing of political parties, the independence of mass media, and establishing open dialogues between governments and citizens. The Czech Republic hopes to continue the efforts begun by the conference on the future of Europe, as well as creating a space for the continuation of the debate. With 2022 as the European Year of Youth, the focus will be targeted on improving dialogue with young people and supporting their political participation. The Czech presidency also wants to focus on respecting and strengthening freedoms and European values in offline and online environments, using their opportunity to be the first to legislate on new technologies. In doing so, the Czech Republic seeks to position the EU as a global leader in the regulation of artificial intelligence and emerging digital markets.
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