The Czech Republic is entering turbulent times

Christophe Ena

On Friday, the Czech Republic enters its second term as the presiding country of the European Union at the most turbulent time in decades due to the war near our borders, migration, and energy crises.

After France’s six months at the helm of the EU, the Czech Republic is facing a task that every country in the EU-27 must take on once every thirteen years.

Although the presidency did not formally begin until midnight on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron symbolically handed over the leadership role to Prime Minister Petr Fial on Thursday’s side of the NATO summit in Madrid. “We still have a lot of work to do,” Macron said, wishing the Czech government much courage.

Fiala praised France’s performance in leading the EU, which was fundamentally affected by the start of the war in Ukraine. At the same time, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský received a symbolic baton in European colors from his French colleague Catherine Colonna in Madrid. The minister said France is handing over to the Czech Republic a Union “stronger, more sovereign and, I think, more united.”

Six anti-Russian sanctions packages

During the Paris-led ministerial meetings, the Union adopted six packages of anti-Russian sanctions. Several measures were approved to support Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. In its role as president, France has thus demonstrated the EU’s inclusiveness.

The Czech Republic will hold the EU presidency for six months before handing the reins to Sweden in January 2023.

In particular, the Czech Republic wants to address mass migration, the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, possibly with President Volodymyr Zelensky, strengthening security, the energy crisis, and the resilience of democratic institutions, including media freedom.

Minister for European Affairs, or “Mr. Europe,” Mikuláš Bek (STAN), said that the presidency is primarily a moderator of the debate on common EU goals.

The motto of the Czech presidency is “Europe as a task,” based on a speech by former President Václav Havel in Aachen, Germany, in 1996.

Will the Balkans still be at the door?

Prague also wants to pay attention to the Western Balkans and their integration into the EU. Here, the Czech Presidency will have to be deft, given that the last EU summit approved the granting of candidate status to war-torn Ukraine at an almost express pace, while the relatively stable Western Balkan states have been “sitting in the waiting room” for EU membership for several years.

In addition to Friday’s ceremony attended by members of the Czech government and the European Commission in Litomyšl, one of the upcoming events will be a speech by Prime Minister Petr Fiala in the European Parliament on July 6, where he will present the priorities of the Czech presidency to MEPs, and a conference organized by the Ministry of Education on the financing of research, development, and innovation at the Prague Congress Centre on July 7.

Válek wants to address vaccines and oncology.

For example, the health ministry wants to use the presidency to push for changes in the availability of medicines and access to covid. The head of the ministry, Vlastimil Válek (TOP 09), would like to achieve a modification of contracts with manufacturers of vaccines against covid.

“We do not want there to be long-term commitments that we have to take a certain number of vaccines and then transport them somewhere,” Válek said.

He also wants to help ensure that the same anti-epidemic measures are applied across the EU and that each country does not have significantly different ones.

Oncology, its prevention, and access to treatment between countries is also a big issue. In mid-July, a conference on newborn screening will be held in Brno, where the 200th anniversary of Johann Gregor Mendel’s birth will also be celebrated.