War-Time EU Presidency: Czech Priorities Are Getting More EU Money and Weapons into Ukraine

Written by | Thursday, July 7th, 2022

The Czech Republic has just taken over (1 July) the rotating presidency of the European council from France, inheriting a complex and explosive environment in Europe. With over five million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded across the EU — and with 400,000 of them residing in the Czech Republic alone — Prague has vowed to focus largely on aid to Ukraine and the war’s repercussions.
The last time the country in the heart of Europe held the EU presidency, in early 2009, the continent was still reeling from the global financial crisis and the portents of the European sovereign debt crisis were starting to appear. Fast forward thirteen years and the Czech Republic has again taken up the presidency of the Council of the EU during another period of emergency. In an exercise in crisis management, Prague aims to bolster regional cooperation in support of the war-torn Ukraine and find some common solutions to soaring inflation and the ongoing energy crisis. Yet the pessimists claim that by the time its presidency ends on 31 December, these crises will get a lot worse. Still, the Czech government’s press spokesman says that “the primary interest of our government is to carry out the presidency adequately to the contemporary needs and challenges that lie ahead of us.”
“It will be a war presidency, or hopefully a post-war presidency,” Edita Hrda, the country’s permanent representative to the EU, said, outlining the Czech government’s five-point policy agenda. And it will most likely be the war in Ukraine that will dominate the agenda. “As a country strongly supporting Ukraine on both the military and political front, the Czech Republic will represent a significant voice in the debate on Russian aggression,” a Prague-based analyst, Ivana Karaskova, says. Prague has affirmed that it wants to do the utmost to get more of the bloc’s money and weapons flowing into Ukraine, “using all instruments and programs offered by the EU,” according to the presidency’s formal list of goals. The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky has recently vowed that his country “will continue to support Ukraine militarily and with material aid and we will continue to strongly back the country’s integrity.”
The Czech Republic’s task was made somewhat easier after Ukraine was recently awarded EU candidate status but has, paradoxically, become harder as the European unity witnessed in the first months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has started to disentangle. Europe’s fading unity over Ukraine has been revealed through heated debates about whether Germany and some other European countries are doing enough to militarily support Kyiv and also about the question of accepting Russian gas imports. To that end, analysts expect that the Czech Republic will prioritize less polarizing issues. “The government understands the need to create coalitions and work as a facilitator of the EU consensus,” said Karaskova. Experts say that one such issue will be cementing a more equitable and sustainable policy for Ukrainian refugees within the EU, while another one will be advancing talks over the reconstruction of Ukraine once the war is over. And as a corollary to the war in Ukraine, the its second priority will be energy transition, more specifically trying to find a common ground for becoming energetically independent of Russia while also limiting CO² emissions.

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