Under the motto “Europe as a task”, the Czech Republic will take over the rotating Presidency of the EU from 1 July to 31 December 2022. After France and prior to Sweden, the Czech Republic will continue the 18-month Trio Programme, which has been jointly defined by the three Presidencies.
On 1 July 2022, the Czech Republic took over the six-months rotating EU Council Presidency from France. Together with its French predecessor and its succeeding Swedish EU Council Presidency, Prague had agreed a so-called 18-month Trio Programme, which due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine had to be adjusted to new geopolitical realities. The five interrelated priorities of the forthcoming EU Council Presidency are now reaching from energy security and defence up to economic and democratic resilience.
Energy security and defence
Apart from securing an appropriate crisis management, in view of the continuing war in Ukraine and its consequences, the Czech Council Presidency wants to focus on European energy security. Against this background, the aim is to drive forward the accelerated implementation of the REPowerEU Programme, to increase energy efficiency and to expand low-emission and renewable energy sources. The Czech Republic also wants to implement the regulation on gas storage and intends to support the voluntary joint procurement of gas. At the same time, implementing an appropriate instrument mix shall reduce the negative socio-economic impact of high energy prices.
Another target of the Czech Presidency is to improve European defence and security capabilities, to intensify cooperation with non-European partners within NATO and to support the implementation of the “Strategic Compass”. In this context, the Czech Republic intends to work on the speedy development of the so-called “Hybrid Toolbox”, which is to contain a series of voluntary instruments to tackle disinformation, foreign interference and other cyber space disruptions.
Economic and democratic resilience
The Czech Republic intends to use its EU Council Presidency period to strengthen the resilience of the European economy. Here, the targeted support of competitiveness concerning strategic technologies is as much a priority as are closer trade relations with democratic countries. The Czech Presidency will also focus on strengthening the transatlantic cooperation regarding the resilience of supply chains within the scope of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council. In accordance with the targets of the Data Act and the Chips Act, strengthening the Single Market is also one of the economic priorities of the Czech Republic, whereby in particular the significance of European digital identities and a fair data market has been stressed.
With a view towards upholding and further developing democratic values and the rule of law in the EU, the Czech Republic plans to concentrate on the transparent funding of political parties, the independence of mass media and the open dialogue with citizens, in particular with reference to the Conference on the Future of Europe. Furthermore, the Czech Presidency intends to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms will be respected in a digital environment. However, first and foremost it is the intention to expedite global standards, which are based on a person-centred approach.
Strong economic liberal features and few social issues
From AK’s point of view, one has to criticise that the Czech Republic, in spite of the acute energy and climate crisis, has hardly set any or no climate and social targets for the EU Council Presidency. Furthermore, the Czech Council Presidency has given no answer to the question as to how the economic liberal focus, for example by an intensified effort on intensifying global trade, such as transporting goods across the globe, should be compatible with achieving stricter climate targets. With regard to social policy, the programme of the Czech Presidency is definitely lacking in ambition; it does not go beyond the priorities set by the EU Commissions’ Work Programme 2022 and is far less ambitious then previous Council Presidencies with their own social agenda. Initiatives, which are important from AK’s point of view, such as minimum income, platform work as well as an EU care strategy, are only marginally mentioned. Unfortunately, the Czech Programme does hardly give any indication with regard to putting an end to the socio-economic consequences for war, climate and energy crisis and how the social cohesion within the EU could be strengthened.