Petr Dubinsky

Government To Discuss EU Presidency Budget

The budget for the Czech Presidency of the European Union, which will begin in less than a year, in the amount of 1.24 billion crowns will probably not be enough, so the government will discuss its increase by 200 million crowns on Monday. The government wants to add about 30 employees in the civil service and at the Permanent Representation in Brussels. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš admitted at the end of June that the budget was not final, after criticizing economists, investors, and other personalities, who had the original amount of 1.24 billion as insufficient. He said at the time that the overall budget would further increase the requirements of individual ministries when negotiating the state budget for next year. The Czechia will hold the EU presidency in the second half of next year.

The report on preparations mentions a high degree of uncertainty, both in terms of real procurement prices and the outcome of partnership proceedings and unpredictability in the form of future negotiations due to the evolution of the covid-19 epidemic and political developments, including in the EU. All this with an impact on the number of events, such as summits and their format, and, last but not least, on aspects that were not originally fully reflected in the budgeting two years ago. For the year 2022, the authors, therefore, request reports on an increase in the budget for events and communication by 148.6 million crowns. 

“Only in this way will the central coordinator be able to meet all his responsibilities,” he said, adding that it was not desirable to use the existing reserves of the presidency’s budget, as further unforeseen expenditures would be highly likely in 2022. The report also states that that the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic intends to cover some expenses associated with summit state visits within the framework of funds intended for summit state visits. According to the report, the personnel increase will represent costs of up to approximately 41.5 million crowns. According to the original proposal, Czechia was to employ 200 people due to the presidency, 58 of them in Brussels. The budget of the Office of the Government for securing events in which it will be responsible is to be increased by almost ten million crowns.

At the same time, according to the authors of the proposal, the budget of the presidency must not be affected by general cuts contained in the draft state budget for 2022, which envisages a reduction in expenditures of all ministries by five percent on operating costs. “Not only can spending not be reduced across the board, but in line with the above, the chapters will need to be increased to bring about actions that have been approved,” he said.

Economists and other personalities in the second half of June criticized the president’s budget, but also the little attention that the prime minister and ministers pay to it. The letter was signed by, for example, the Rector of Mendel University in Brno Danuše Nerudová, former Czech Ambassador to the USA and Russia Petr Kolář, Director of the Biological Center of the Academy of Sciences Libor Grubhoffer, actress, diplomat and pedagogue Magdaléna Vašáryová, Bishop Václav Malý or IKEM chief epidemiologist Petr Smejkal. In the published reaction, Babiš stated that the cabinet has been diligently preparing for the presidency since July 2018. According to him, the call addressed to the cabinet includes myths and half-truths. The total budget will be additionally increased by the requirements of individual ministries, he explained at the time. He also denied that the presidency should suffer from staff shortages.

In total, the state plans to organize 265 events in the Czech Republic during the presidency. A summit of prime ministers and presidents is scheduled to meet at Prague Castle, the Foreign Ministry will propose the organization of an EU-Western Balkans summit at the level of heads of state and government during the presidency, and wants to consider possible EU-US and EU-India summits. Informal councils plan to convene 14.

The increase in the budget should, for example, also cover the summit in the event that the length of the negotiations is extended or its format is extended. Compared to the plan, for example, the rental of a journalism center, which will be the same and accessible to foreign and Czech journalists throughout the presidency, will be the same and accessible the day before the high-level events. “The practice is based on the experience of previous presidencies and will increase costs by about two million crowns. Compared to 2009, furniture will also be rented from a supplier, not the purchase of one’s own,” the report said.

As in 2009, the state plans to secure the presidency’s fleet by sponsorship. However, according to preliminary market consultations, the report has shown that the market will not be able to provide all parts of the contract in this way, such as buses for the transport of delegates or possibly armored vehicles, the document states. He calculated additional transport costs at 13 million crowns. In addition, if the material confirms that the individual authorities are unable to provide their cars to a greater extent for the most numerous events, with a maximum of 85 delegations, it will be necessary to rent more cars commercially. If the state did not compete for the public contract for car sponsorship, in the end, the costs for passenger cars alone would climb to more than 50 million without VAT, he states. The proposal to lease airport lounges envisages a ten million increase,

According to the organizers of the presidency, an increase in the budget must also be taken into account due to the covid epidemic. They estimated the estimated cost of additional video equipment at around four million with VAT. After preliminary market consultations, catering costs will be three times higher than the expected performance (12 million crowns), the report states. There are also orders of magnitude higher costs for podiums, tents, spotlights, decoration, and decoration of buildings, flags, floral decoration of the premises where the events will take place, in total it is more than 40 million crowns, he adds. About 13 million of the original budget comes from salaries, uniforms, equipment, training, and telephone tariffs for people,