Matt Atlas

Ukraine, energy, and supply chains in focus as Czech government unveils five priorities for upcoming EU presidency

The Czech government has revealed its priorities for the country’s next presidency of the EU Council, which will span from July 1 to December 31, this year. Managing the refugee problem caused by Ukraine’s war, as well as assisting in the country’s reconstruction, would be priority priorities, along with preserving Europe’s energy security and increasing defense capabilities.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala described the next Czech EU presidency as a “test of maturity” for the country as it accepts the role of chairing talks between representatives of the EU’s 27 member states.

“It will not be an easy test. Europe and the world as a whole are going through a period of major change because of Russia’s aggression. This has shaken many of the foundations that we previously held for granted. It certainly revealed the weaknesses of Europe’s security architecture which we will also have to develop, not as bystanders but as active participants.

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has also caused the largest internal European refugee wave since the end of the Second World War and it is our duty to manage this crisis honorably.”

Managing the implications of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is undoubtedly at the centre of the Czech presidency preparations, with either Ukraine or Russia listed in all five priorities identified by the government.

The first is the management of the refugee situation and the planning of Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. This includes mobilizing EU funding to assist member states hardest hit by the refugee crisis, as well as ensuring that Europe works together to successfully integrate the large number of persons obliged to seek asylum in the EU.

This includes ensuring that refugee children have access to school and care, which the government hopes will also assist Ukrainian women in accessing Europe’s labor market. While it is impossible to forecast when the fighting in Ukraine will finish, the administration aims to at least begin a discussion about how the EU can assist Ukraine in rebuilding its infrastructure and economy.

Another issue that the Czech Republic will want to bring to the forefront of EU Council meetings is energy security, which has been cruelly exposed to Europe in recent months. Before the EU’s goal to decarbonize can be completely implemented, the main focus will be on successfully weaning the union off of Russian energy supplies and finding short-term alternatives.

Strengthening Europe’s defence capacities is the third priority on Czechia’s to-do list. NATO is identified as a key partner in this area with the cyber and space domains seen as important factors in ensuring Europe’s communications systems remain safe. Closer cooperation in developing strategic military systems and the support of key technologies are also mentioned as targets.

Amid the sharp ongoing rise in inflation, market unpredictability, and the vulnerability of global supply chains, the Czech presidency will also focus on making Europe more strategically resilient when it comes to its economy. In this effort, the Czech government seeks to promote closer trade ties with democratic states around the world and better technological competitiveness rather than going in the direction of a strategically autonomous Europe.

Office of Czech Government

The government has also named the endurance of democratic institutions as its fifth and final priority.

Internally, this includes a focus on transparent political party financing, an independent media ecosystem, and open discourse. Meanwhile, Europe’s human rights and democracy action plan will be advocated abroad.