He picks up the witness of France and places among his main priorities the consequences of the war and the refugee crisis
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and her cabinet traveled to the Czech Republic this Friday on the occasion of the change of presidency of the Council of the European Union. In the Litomysl castle, 160 kilometers from Prague, the Czech Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, was waiting for them in the rain. His country assumes the European presidency at a delicate moment, with an open war in Europe and the need to deal with its humanitarian, political and economic consequences.
The conflict in Ukraine broke out at the end of February, when France had barely assumed the presidency of the European Council. The Russian invasion blew up the French ambitions in terms of European policies for the semester. However, in that time, the Twenty-seven reacted quickly, imposing seven rounds of sanctions on Moscow and drawing up a roadmap to reduce its energy dependence.
“Europe is currently facing many problems and challenges, but if we act with unity and determination, we will come out of these crises stronger and more resilient,” the Czech Prime Minister said in June, when he stressed the importance of supporting the Ukrainian people. And that was the message that was also imposed yesterday, when he picked up the baton.
Representatives of the Congress and the Senate of the Czech Republic have held a meeting with the members of the Community Executive to discuss the priorities of the Czech presidency. Under the slogan ‘Europe as a task: rethink, rebuild, revitalize’, the country wants to strengthen the bloc’s freedom, responsibility, security and prosperity.
The management of the refugee crisis will undoubtedly be one of the main challenges of the Czech presidency. More than five million people have fled from Ukraine to EU countries since the start of the war. As detailed by the Czech Minister for Regional Development, Ivan Bartos, one of the lines of work will consist of facilitating the access of regions and cities to European financing, so that they have the necessary support to welcome Ukrainian refugees.
European energy security is another of the great challenges in the short and long term, and is also one of the priorities of the presidency this semester. With the REPowerEU program as a roadmap –which contemplates an investment of 300,000 million euros– and after reaching several agreements with the United States and other large producers of liquefied natural gas, the European Union must continue to diversify its sources and reduce its energy expenditure. “It is the most urgent matter,” Von der Leyen stressed in Litomsyl.
With the high price of energy, due to the rise in gas, from Prague they will also have to deal with the demand of certain European countries to impose a cap on the price of gas and carry out a reform of the European energy market.
In terms of security, the Czech Republic wants to strengthen Europe’s defense capabilities against hybrid threats and curb disinformation campaigns, a tactic too often used by Russia. And, of course, it will have to face reconstruction after the pandemic, with the deployment of Next Generation funds and the necessary reforms and investments in the Member States.
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