Ursula von der Leyen (president of the European Commission) and her cabinet visited the Czech Republic to mark the end of the Council of the European Union's presidency. The Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala waited in the rain at the Litomysl Castle, 160 km from Prague. His country takes over the European presidency in a delicate time, when Europe is at war and must deal with its economic, political, and humanitarian consequences.
At the end of February, the conflict in Ukraine broke out. France was just beginning to assume the presidency of European Council. French ambitions for European policy in the semester were thwarted by the Russian invasion. The Twenty-seven quickly reacted and imposed seven rounds of sanctions against Moscow. They also drafted a plan to reduce Russia's dependence on foreign energy.
"Europe is currently facing many challenges and problems, but if you act with unity, determination, and we will come out from these crises stronger, and more resilient," said the Czech Prime Minister in June. He also stressed the importance to support the Ukrainian people. Yesterday, he also received this message when he took up the baton.
To discuss the priorities of the Czech presidency, representatives of the Congress and the Senate of the Czech Republic met with members of the Community Executive. The country is determined to increase the freedom, responsibility and security of the bloc under the slogan "Europe as a task: Rethink, rebuild, revive".
Undoubtedly, the Czech presidency will face the greatest challenge in managing the refugee crisis. Since the outbreak of war, more than 5 million people fled Ukraine to EU countries. Ivan Bartos (Czech Minister for Regional Development) outlined that one of his main responsibilities will be to facilitate the access of cities and regions to European financing so they can provide support for the Ukrainian refugees.
European energy security is one of the major challenges of the near and long-term. It is also one the top priorities of the presidency in this semester. The REPowerEU program is a roadmap. It envisages an investment of 300,000.00 million euros. After reaching agreements with the United States, and other large producers liquefied natural gases, the European Union needs to continue diversifying its sources and reducing its energy consumption. Von der Leyen stated in Litomsyl that "it is the most urgent matter."
Due to the rising cost of energy due to gas price, Prague will have to address the demand from certain European countries for a price cap and reform of the European energy market.
The Czech Republic is keen to increase Europe's security capabilities and counter disinformation campaigns. This tactic has been too frequently used by Russia. It will also have to rebuild after the pandemic. Next Generation funds will be deployed and reforms and investments made in the Member States.